Within the world of 3D printing, the most exciting developments to look forward to involve 3D printing of human body parts. For us hair loss sufferers, 3D printed hair is of especial interest.
October 27, 2021
New Studies on 3D Bioprinting of Hair Follicles
I am updating this post due to several new studies on the subject as well as updates to past information.
Note that there are various 3D printing technologies with different purposes. These include: laser-assisted bio-printing of hair follicles (that would then be transplanted); 3D printing of scaffolds to assist in 3D culturing of hair and dermal papilla cells; and 3D printing of hair systems. Perhaps I should not combine these into one post in future updates.
- 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. March 2022 updated summary can be read on ScienceDirect.
- 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.
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 in 2021, Dr. Atala has been working with NASA to print artificial organs in space.
Much of the work entailing 3D printing of organs involves a combination of printing cells plus biomaterials. When it comes to 3D printing of hair follicles, all the work thus far seems to focus on the use of synthetic materials rather than actual cells.
We are still not close to being able to implant such 3D printed hair into the scalp as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, this subject is still fascinating. Make sure to read this article that I posted on this blog before.
June 2, 2016
In the past several months, two news items on 3D printed hair caught my eye.
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. For the scientists among you, Dr. Ishii and his team’s paper on this subject is probably extremely interesting. I only glanced through it due to time constraints.
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?
CRLAB (Cesare Ragazzi): 3D Printed CNC Hair System
Hair systems and prosthesis are not exactly what me have in mind when we disuss 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.
Here is a NY Daily News article from March where I first read about the company. 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.