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Breakthrough Discovery

Hair Follicle Breakthrough Discovery Claire Higgins

Hair Follicle Transplant Can Restore Function in Scarred Organs

Hair Follicle Breakthrough Discovery Claire Higgins

Dr. Claire Higgins

New research conducted by the Medical Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has discovered that transplanting hair follicles into mature human scars can effectively remodel fibrotic tissue.

Previous studies had already shown that hair transplants could aid in the healing of wounds, leading the researchers to hypothesize that transplanting growing hair follicles into scar tissue would induce remodeling of the scars themselves.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers conducted experiments in which they transplanted actively growing hair follicles into scar tissue.

The results showed that after six months, the number of cells in the scar had doubled and that the number of blood vessels had reached levels comparable to those of healthy skin within four months.

Furthermore, the study revealed that the gene expression in the scars changed significantly after transplantation. Genes that promote cell and blood vessel growth were expressed more, while genes that promote scar-formation processes were expressed less.

Dr.  Claire Higgins, the leader of the study, emphasized that the implications of this work extend beyond cosmetic applications. Scar tissue can cause issues in various organs, so their approach tackles multiple aspects of scarring rather than focusing on single contributors like current treatments do.

The hair follicle transplant likely delivers multiple growth factors simultaneously, remolding the scar tissue. This provides further support for treatments like hair transplantation that alter the structure and genetic expression of scars to restore function.

The researchers are now focused on understanding the underlying mechanisms of this process in order to develop therapies that can remodel scar tissue without requiring a hair follicle transplant. They aim to test their findings on non-hairy skin or organs like the heart and liver, which can experience scarring due to different diseases. This breakthrough could potentially open up new treatment options for a variety of conditions.

The study was published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine.