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3-D Printed Hair Follicles?

Researchers Making Strides Toward Artificially Created Hair Follicles

One of the interesting areas of research in hair transplantation involves the possibility of hair follicles created by a process similar to a 3-D printer. It might sound like science fiction, but two well respected organizations – L’Oréal and Poietis – believe it can be science fact. The two have partnered to explore what they describe as “bioprinting a hair follicle.”

Poietis isn’t a top household brand name like L’Oréal, but it has been involved in game-changing scientific developments in the area of laser-assisted printing to create cell-based objects such as biological tissue. Originally, the concept was being explored to eliminate the necessity to use animals to test products. However, the latest initiative is geared toward people who are seeking help with hair loss.

Here’s how it works:

  • A bioprinter bounces a pulsing laser beam off a mirror and through a lens to create a ribbon containing cell-based bio ink.
  • The device, which can position cells in 3D with extremely high cellular resolution, on the order of ten microns, repeatedly layers micro-drops of the bio ink.
  • Operating at a rate of 10,000 micro-droplets per second, the layers create living biological tissue with cellular viability over 95 percent.
  • The living tissue must be matured for around 3 weeks before it can be used in tests.

According to an announcement from the two companies, “This research partnership offers exciting perspectives at a time when conventional tissue engineering technologies remain limited in terms of the complexity of cell patterns.”

They make no secret of their audacious goal, saying, “The combination of this exclusive technology with L’Oréal’s unique expertise in hair biology could make it possible to create a functional follicle capable of producing hair.”

This is not to be confused with producing artificial hair for use in hair pieces or other hair replacement products that are placed on the scalp. The L’Oréal/Poietis partnership is actually aimed at creating a living hair follicle that in concept could be implanted into the scalp just as we do currently with a patient’s own follicles when Dr. Arocha performs a hair transplant.

“It’s of the most complex objectives so far of all the bio-printing projects that we have created,” said Poietis Founder and Chief Executive Fabien Guillemot.

Of course, it is essential to recognize that even conventional 3-D printing can be difficult to access and relatively expensive. Like many other scientific advances currently underway in various parts of the globe, this one is likely many years away from having any impact on patients seeking help for their hair loss today. Nonetheless, the team at Arocha Hair Restoration is excited about what it could mean in the next decade.

“This research addresses one of the biggest frustrations in the field of hair restoration: patients who experience the greatest hair loss and have the greatest need for follicles to transplant also have the least number of potential donor follicles,” said Dr. Arocha. “If a bioprinter could produce donor follicles that could be implanted into the scalp of that patient, it would remove the biggest limiting factor for achieving desired density.”

Poietis is among a long list of researchers heavily involved in the bioprinting process. If you are thinking this is just hype, the proof that the practice of bioprinting can work is as plain as the nose on your face – literally. The French company previously created cartilage nearly a half inch wide by a quarter inch thick. It’s the type of tissue that could be used to restore ears, shoulders, knees and even a nose. That process took about 10 minutes in production. They expect that growing hair follicles will be significantly more complex and will therefore take longer.

See video explanation on YouTube:

Contact Arocha Hair Restoration today for a complimentary consultation.