Stem Cell Printer May Bring Future Hair Loss Treatments

Mon 1 Apr 2013

CellPrinter02One day, stem cell therapy may help the blind to see and the paralyzed to walk. It may regrow lost limbs and damaged organs, cure illness and even prolong life. Given this seemingly endless potential for medical miracles, it’s no wonder that balding men and women are anxiously anticipating news of a stem cell hair loss cure and the recent advent of a 3D stem cell printer just might bring that idea one step closer to reality.

Recently, researchers from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland announced the development of a 3-D printer that uses “bio ink” (a material made from living cells that behaves much like a liquid, allowing people to “print” it in order to create a desired shape) to create living, human embryonic stem cells.

According to scientists,

“The cell printer was made from a modified CNC machine (a computer-controlled machining tool) outfitted with two ‘bio ink’ dispensers: one containing stem cells in a nutrient-rich soup called cell medium and another containing just the medium. These embryonic stem cells were dispensed through computer-operated valves, while a microscope mounted to the printer provided a close-up view of what was being printed. The two inks were then dispensed in layers, one on top of the other to create cell droplets of varying concentration. The smallest droplets were only two nanoliters, containing roughly five cells.”

About 99% of cells created through this process were alive and viable for replication. These cells then have the capacity to develop into any cell type from brain tissue to muscle, bone and even hair follicles. 

This may be good news for balding men and women worldwide. While today’s state of the art follicular unit hair transplants can produce perfectly natural and undetectable results, surgical hair restoration today remains a compromise between supply and demand. Results are limited by the number of grafts present in the permanent donor supply at the rear and sides of the scalp. Though medical treatments like Rogaine (minoxidil) and Propecia (finasteride) can help to slow the progress of thinning hair and even regrow hair, many patients require more hair than their donor supply can provide in order to obtain full coverage. Stem cells may hold the key to growing an unlimited donor supply for implantation into a bald scalp.

The full potential of stem cell therapy is not yet known. Perhaps one day, this research will lead to a cure for androgenic alopecia as well as a host of more serious and even life-threatening conditions.  Until that time arrives, those seeking a solution to thinning hair are encouraged to consult with a skilled and experienced hair reforestation physician like those recommended by the Hair Transplant Network to learn about today’s most effective treatment options.


David (TakingThePlunge)
Editorial Assistant and Forum Co-Moderator for the Hair Transplant Network, the Coalition Hair Loss Learning Center, and the Hair Loss Q & A Blog.
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