Each hair develops from a follicle — a narrow pocket in the skin — and goes through three phases of growth. Anagen (A), the active growth phase, lasts two to seven years. Catagen (), the transition phase, lasts about two weeks. During this phase, the hair shaft moves upward toward the skin's surface, and the dermal papilla (the structure that nourishes cells that give rise to hair) begins to separate from the follicle. Telogen (C), the resting phase, lasts around three months and culminates in the shedding of the hair shaft.
Drugs normally used for rheumatoid arthritis and bone marrow cancer, they are now being studied for their uses as a hair growth medicine. These are a new class of medicines labeled as JAK inhibitors. In one study, 6 out of 9 patients dramatically went from bald to a full head of hair after taking Ruxolitinib for 5 months. In another study several subjects were able to regrow full heads of hair. Unfortunately, sustained use of such drugs will have severe side effects. Many of these concerns would be side stepped if a topical formula could be developed. Researchers at the Department of Dermatology and Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical center are now studying other JAK inhibitors in placebo controlled studies.
During this procedure, surgeons remove a narrow strip of scalp and divide it into hundreds of tiny grafts, each containing just a few hairs. Each graft is planted in a slit in the scalp created by a blade or needle in the area of missing hair. Hair grows naturally this way, in small clusters of one to four follicles, called follicular units. As a result, the graft looks better than the larger "plugs" associated with hair transplants of yesteryear.
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The Holy Grail remains a drug that will promote regrowth, but this might not be so far away. Earlier this year, Manchester University announced that an osteoporosis drug had been found to have “dramatic results” promoting hair growth when applied to tissue samples in pre-clinical trials. The resultant frenzy left the PhD student responsible, Dr Nathan Hawkshaw, a little dazed. “Every other week, something comes out about hair loss and it doesn’t generate as much media coverage as what I experienced,” he grumbles. He’s in this for the science – there aren’t many fields where you get to mess around with real human tissue – but such is the distress caused by hair loss and such is the potential customer base that interest is always high.
Scientists from the Indiana University School of Medicine have for the first time created skin with hair follicles using mice stem cells. Research was led by Professor Karl Koehler. The team was able to grow both the epidermis and dermis layers of skin to create a realistic skin model. An interesting quote from Professor Koehler: “It looks like a little ball of pocket lint that floats around in the culture medium. The skin develops as a spherical cyst and then the hair follicles grow outward in all directions – like dandelion seeds.”