Category Archives: 3D Bioprinting

3D Bioprinting of Hair

Within the world of 3D bioprinting, the most exciting developments to look forward to involve 3D printing of essential human body parts. However, for us hair loss sufferers, 3D bioprinted hair is of disproportionate interest.

Note that there are various 3D printing technologies with different purposes. These include: 3D printing of scaffolds to assist in 3D culturing of hair and dermal papilla cells; laser-assisted bio-printing of hair follicles  (that would then be transplanted); and 3D printing of hair systems. The first of these is our main focus.

December 21, 2022

New Studies on 3D Bioprinting of Hair Follicles

I am updating this post due to several new studies on 3D bioprinting of hair follicles.

  • A new December 2022 paper from China concludes that a new bead-jet enabled printing of mesenchymal stem cell laden Matrigel beads results in hair follicle regeneration. Matrigel (similar to extracellular matrix) was selected as the biomaterial for this research. Compared with conventional 3D in-situ printing techniques, bead-jet printing is specialized for stem cell therapy, with improved retention rates. The new technology might find a diverse range of uses in clinical applications for regenerative medicine.
  • A November 2022 paper from China discusses an interesting mechanical engineering approach of “in situ” bioprinting. The scientists printed bioinks directly into defective sites in order to promote tissue repair. Epidermal stem cells (Epi-SCs), skin-derived precursors (SKPs), and Matrigel were “printed” into the wounds of nude mice to promote hair follicle regeneration. The results showed successful regeneration of hair follicles and other skin appendages at 4 weeks after in situ bioprinting. Moreover, the bioprinting only slightly decreased stem cell viability. These findings support a mechanical engineering method for hair follicle regeneration.
  • A June 2022 study from Japan proposes an approach for the scalable and automated preparation of highly hair-inductive grafts using a bioprinter. Mesenchymal–epithelial interactions resulted in efficient hair follicle regeneration in mice. However, the new hair shafts remained mostly beneath the skin. The scientists then developed a unique method to enable the hair to sprout upwards through the skin. Note that the lead author of this study is Junji Fukuda, who I have covered many times on this blog.
  • A study from China that was published in September 2021 discusses a new approach in three-dimensional bioprinting for the tissue engineering of hair follicle reconstruction. This method entails a 3D bioprinting technique based on a gelatin/alginate hydrogel to construct a multilayer composite scaffold. The end results is a suitable 3D microenvironment for dermal papilla cells to induce new hair follicle formation. Update: A March 2022 summary can be read on ScienceDirect.
  • A June 2021 summary from China is a must read. It is titled “3D bioprinting for skin tissue engineering: Current status and perspectives.” It covers in detail the latest status of the main 3D bioprinting technologies (droplet-based, laser-assisted, extrusion-based and stereolithography). It then covers in detail skin bioprinting, hair bioprinting an sweat gland bioprinting.
  • Another far more detailed study from China that was published in May 2021 is titled: “Using bioprinting and spheroid culture to create a skin model with sweat glands and hair follicles.” The researchers managed to simultaneously induce sweat gland and hair follicle regeneration. Moreover, they discovered a symbiotic relationship between sweat gland scaffolds and hair follicle spheroids.
3D Bioprinting of Hair and Sweat Glands.
Using 3D bioprinting and spheroid culture to create skin with sweat glands and hair follicles. Source: Burns & Trauma, Volume 9, 2021.

Also make sure to read my past tissue engineering of hair follicles post covering work from Dr. Angela Christiano’s team at Columbia University. It is also summarized in the below 2019 video:

Poietis, L’Oréal, BASF and Dr. Atala

The most exciting work in this area of 3D printed hair (and skin) involves the partnership between Poietis, L’Oréal and BASF. Even after years of reading about 3D bioprinting and watching many videos on the subject, it still seems like science fiction to me. However, this is definitely not fiction, and the basic technology has already existed and been used in people for over a decade.

Dr. Anthony Atala (a pioneer who I have mentioned a few times on this blog) has two extremely popular TED Talk videos on this subject from 2010 and 2011. At the time, Dr. Atala’s work was also well covered in this article. More recently, Dr. Atala has been working with NASA to print artificial organs in space.

3D Printed Hair and Hair Systems

While we are most interested in cellular level 3D hair follicle bioprinting and transplantation, there also exist other uses of 3D printers that involve hair. Methods that make use of synthetic materials an do not entail any kind of complicated scaffolds and culturing.

MIT Media Group’s Cillia: 3D Printed Hair

The first of these was not widely covered, but since it involves researchers from MIT, I give it precedence. These scientists are part of the MIT Tangible Media Group, led by Dr. Hiroshi Ishii, and their project is called Cillia. Note that they do not discuss the human scalp whatsoever, and they are using bitmap technology to print this hair rather than any kind of actual cells.

The futurism website has a much more detailed article on the subject, although I laughed when I read this quote:

“While there are a number of potential aesthetic purposes, customized paint brushes or strong adhesive surfaces might be at the top of people’s lists on what 3D printed hair could be used for.”

I would guess the exact opposite. The aesthetic purposes will be far more important from a commercial perspective. Or maybe I am just underestimating the market for paint brushes and adhesive surfaces?

Make sure to also see the work from Carnegie Mellon University for creating lifelike hair fibers using a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer.

CRLAB (Cesare Ragazzi): 3D Printed CNC Hair  System

Hair systems and prosthesis are not exactly what me have in mind  when we discuss 3D printed hair. However, Italian company CRLAB (previously Cesare Ragazzi) has received tremendous publicity in recent years for its CNC 3D printed hair and scalp prosthesis systems.

You can watch is a Lab Tour video of the company to learn more. Their work was even covered on 3dprint.com in 2016. The company’s technology is essentially an attempt at making a much better wig/hairpiece/hair system/toupee than anything that is in existence today. With far less expensive and frequent maintenance requirements. Plus a superior individualized fit (scalp mapping). The technology is based on CNC systems that are being sold around the world by Cesare Ragazzi.

Tissue Engineering of Hair Follicles using a Biomimetic Approach

In 2004, Aderans Research Institute filed a patent (granted in 2009) titled “Tissue engineered biomimetic hair follicle graft“. The invention entailed an improved scaffold that would mimic the architecture of the native hair follicle. The ultimate aim for this invention (after further improvements) would be hair multiplication. However, for a number of reasons, the much hyped Aderans liquidated its research institute in 2013.

In the above patent filing, the most cited author when it comes to reference material was Durham University (UK)’s Dr. Colin Jahoda. To be specific, 10 of his past papers are cited: ranging from this one from 1981 to a 2001 paper on trans-species hair growth induction. The industrious Dr. Jahoda has published numerous other major research papers since 2001, some of which I have covered on this blog in the past.

Biomimetic Engineering of Human Hair

Tissue Engineering of Hair
Engineered human hair growing on a mouse.

Several  days ago, a groundbreaking new research paper was published in Nature Communications (h/t reader “John Doe”). The title of this paper was: “Tissue engineering of human hair follicles using a biomimetic developmental approach”. Very similar to the title of the earlier mentioned patent.

Moreover, one of the main co-authors of this latest 2018 work is Durham University’s Dr. Colin Jahoda. The other authors are all researchers from US-based Columbia University’s Department of Dermatology, led by the renowned Dr. Angela Christiano.

The conclusion of this research is one that should make everyone enthused:

“The ability to regenerate an entire hair follicle from cultured human cells will have a transformative impact on the medical management of different types of alopecia, as well as chronic wounds, which represent major unmet medical needs.”

Note that this latest paper was submitted in May 2018, accepted in October 2018, and finally published in December 2018. So the Jahoda, Christiano et al. team’s current research is at least seven months ahead of what is described in the paper.

3D-Spheroid Cultures to 3D-Printed Molds

I have covered 3D-spheroids and related structures and scaffolds (to help brand new hair follicles grow from scratch) numerous times on this blog. This area of research has seemed to be the holy grail for scientists trying to succeed at hair multiplication. Just like DHT elimination and restarting Wnt/β-catenin signaling have been the holy grails when it comes to preventing further hair loss and regrowing existing miniaturized hair.

Numerous scientists such as Dr. Colin Jahoda and Dr. Takashi Tsuji have focused on research 3D-spheroids and 3D-culturing of dermal papilla cells to grow new hair follicles for many years. However, in this latest study, it seems like the scientists have turned there focus to 3D-printing (or 3D-bioprinting). They even give the name of the specific 3D printer that they used during this experimentation.

The Jahoda, Christiano et. al team created 3D-printed hair follicle molds as the key component of the experiment. The scientists used a biomimetic approach to generate human hair follicles within human skin constructs (HSCs). They emulated human biology via the 3D organization of cells in the hair follicle micro-environment using 3D-printed molds. The actual paper is very technical.

Some interesting quotes from the paper:

“In the future, 3D-bioprinting technology operating at a single cell resolution may permit the inclusion of other cell types, such as stem cells and melanocytes, to generate cycling and pigmented HFs.”

“We recently addressed this issue by 3D-spheroid culture of cells and thereby restored 22% of the hair inductive DPC gene signature. Subsequently, other groups also reported the use of this method to induce HFs in mice, albeit inefficiently. To enhance the efficiency of hair induction properties, in this study, we combined genetic and microenvironmental reprogramming strategies by overexpressing the MR gene Lef-1 in combination with spontaneous DPC spheroid formation in the HSCs, which resulted in 70% success rate of HF formation ex vivo, compared to only 19% with the empty vector-transfected DPCs.”

“Using 3D-printing approaches, our goal is to engineer HFs as follicular units and/or in desired patterns that can be integrated with surgical robots and facilitate effective hair transplantation surgery.”