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Stem cell hair follicle creates hope for the bald, lab animals

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Stem cell hair follicle creates hope for the bald, lab animals
Photo: DPA
11:36 CET+01:00
Berlin researchers have grown the world's first hair follicle using stem cells, giving hope to both the bald and animal rights activists around the world, a media report said Tuesday.

The hair follicle created by bioengineers at the capital's Technical University (TU) is somewhat thinner than a normal scalp follicle, but will provide both hair implant possibilities and end the need for millions of animal tests in the future, daily Die Welt said.

Created by bioengineer and doctor Roland Lauster and his team, the hair follicle can be used to research the causes of hair loss, and may also be used for more effective implants than hair plugs – after clinical studies, of course.

“Preparations for this are already in motion,” Lauster told Die Welt.

Additional purposes may include research on hair growth, structure and pigmentation, as well as the effects of toxic substances.

Nanoparticles enter the skin through hair follicles, thus the new invention could tap into the enormous cosmetic testing market, which has seen the number of animal experiments explode in recent years, the paper said.

“Since 1950, the development of new chemicals has gone up 500-fold, and so has the number of animal tests for the licensing of these,” Lauster said.

Skin and hair follicles created in a lab could replace the need for test animals, the paper wrote.

The professor plans to team up with Dr. Uwe Marx to establish a hair follicle test system, then move on to creating a miniature liver, kidney and bone marrow to form a multi-organ biochip to test pharmaceutical and cosmetic substances.

The biochip, to be created at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology, will enable the cells and mini-organs to work together in a closed circuit.

“Building large organs such as complete livers or kidneys has not yet worked, but miniature organs have,” Lauster told the paper.

In the future, hundreds of these biochips could be used to “quickly and safely” test the toxic effects of hundreds of substances, he added.

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