Electricity and Hair Growth

No matter how many years I research hair loss, virtually every month still brings a major surprise. The latest eyebrow-raising story concerns electricity stimulating hair growth, and comes to us from UW Madison.

Baseball Cap to Zap your Scalp and Stop Hair Loss

Electricity Stimulation for Hair Growth
Electric Stimulation to Grow Hair. Source: ACS Nano, Wang et al.

Yesterday, an article in Futurism discussed a new baseball cap invention that mildly electrocutes your scalp and leads to hair growth. Moreover, the cap is powered by small head movements from whoever is wearing it. i.e., no battery or electricity needed. Of course I initially laughed off this whole concept. However, upon further examination, there is some logic to this story.

The scientist who made this invention is Dr. Xudong Wang from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He leads the nanoscience and nanotechnology group at this university. His lab has done an especially large amount of work in the bioelectronic and energy harvesting sectors. This particular invention makes use of something called the triboelectric effect.

In this particular cap, small nanogenerators passively gather energy from day-to-day body movements. These nanogenerators then transmit low-frequency pulses of electricity to the scalp skin. This electric stimulation and electrostatic field causes dormant (or telogen) hair follicles to wake up.

Note that there are already battery powered devices such as electric combs for hair loss on the market.

Dr. Wang is a world leading expert in the design of energy-harvesting devices. Among the inventions that his lab is most famous for include electric bandages that stimulate wound healing; and a weight loss implant that uses electricity to trick the brain into thinking that the stomach is full.

Note that this work was only proven in mice, and supposedly in one human (Dr. Wang’s father). The cap will not regrow hair in completely bald men, but it may regrow recently lost hair as in the case of Mr. Wang’s lucky father.

This work was published in ACS Nano. It was also covered in New Scientist magazine and Science Daily, all fairly reputable magazines as far as I can tell. Dr. Wang’s team aims to conduct human clinical trials in the near future.

Prior Work on Electricity and Hair Growth

Moreover, all the way back in 1990, Canadian scientists discovered that they can help restore thinning hair by stimulating the scalps of balding men with a pulsed electrical field. The lead research was a Dr. Stuart Maddin. Their theory on how this works was that:

The turning on and off of the electrical stimulus at the electrodes causes the alternate polarising and depolarising of the (root and follicle) cell. This opens electrically sensitive calcium channels in the cell membrane, allowing calcium and other positively charged ions to enter the cell where they will stimulate the production of DNA and, from there, protein (and hair) synthesis.

Interestingly, reader “bw” found the following page on an electrical scalp stimulator for hair follicle regrowth. The article cites Dr. Maddin’s work.

70 thoughts on “Electricity and Hair Growth”

  1. “Back in 1990”

    Why doesn’t someone get crowdfunding to this stuff? The amount of baldies who would all throw a buck into the pot to get this cured, surely would mean we would all have heads like Samson now.

  2. So we back to this “kind” of news again.
    Not wanting to sound pessimistic but it seems like a cure is not going to be released anytime soon.

    1. probably not.. baldness should’ve been cured 10 years ago, but it’s been prevented for the same reason solar power isn’t replacing fossil fuels anytime soon.. Shady suppression of progress by establishment.

      1. From a psychological standpoint, it’s comforting to believe that the solutions to our problems are available and all we need to do in order to acquire them is defeat the “bad guy”. Bad guys get defeated all the time after all. It’s scary to think that we don’t have a solution for a problem at all. That means we might never solve the problem. It’s terrifying to think that we humans don’t actually have complete control over our destiny… Reality can be scary some times, but at least by being based in reality we can direct our energy into where it matters in order to succeed in solving these unsolved problems.

        Is it realistic to believe that the companies that sell Minoxidil and Finasteride have complete control over ALL the other companies that exist or that will exist and are able to force feed the global market their product and deceive everyone for decades? If they had that much power they might as well use it to control everything else in the world too.

        When it comes to solar being suppressed I would argue that our unsatisfactory rate of progress isn’t due to the establishment suppressing progress but rather the technical and economic difficulties involved in making that progress. Improving our technology and cooperating on a massive scale. We humans are not THAT virtuous that we will automatically choose to increase our cost right now so that future generations can reap the benefits. Quite the opposite, we are self serving above all else due to the competitive nature of the world we evolved in.

        1. Thanks, Dr. Freud, but I think you’re naive. How much money do existing hair transplant surgeons and companies like Hair Club make every year? Would they be happy letting their never-ending business model become obsolete? Do they have the monetary power to buy out researchers? Would you ever know about it?

          There are a million examples of establishment companies squashing competition and inconvenient information. That’s capitalism. Like nature, there’s nothing fair about it.

          That said, apologies for venting frustrations at pathetic progress and broken promises of the past 20 years. I was lied to by a hair loss surgeon when I was 19 yo, and the resulting disfiguring of my head and ongoing efforts to conceal it have all but ruined my life. So much of the hair loss industry preys on insecurity and takes advantage in every way possible. Expect that the world is shady and be pleasantly surprised when it’s not. I wish I’d understood that when I was 19.

          1. I don’t appreciate the doctor Freud comment because it seems to me like you intend it as an insult, similarly I don’t think you’d like it if I called you Alex Jones or tin foil hatter. It sucks that you had such a terrible experience with your hair transplant when you were young and I hope science advances to the point where you can get the damage that was done to you reversed. I’d like to remind you that there is a lot more to life than hair and even scars. Joe Rogan has visible hair transplant scars and is still very successful in every aspect of life. If he and others can do it so can you.

            Now regarding our previous discussion, of course hair transplant surgeons wouldn’t like it if their business became obsolete, that doesn’t mean they have the power or the resources to control the flow of information regarding hair loss on a global level. How exactly would that even work? When we get down to the details of it all I believe it becomes quite apparent that it can’t work.
            Do the hair transplant surgeons have a secret organization that holds a board meeting where they analyze all the intel provided by a network of agents that have infiltrated every university and research group and related company in the world and then send field operatives over to pay off and threaten whoever is close to the truth?
            How much man power would that take? How much money would it cost? How do they get the necessary information? Do hair transplant surgeons make so much money that they are able to fund their own hair loss version of the CIA and still manage to remain profitable? Are they so capable at communicating with each other and cooperating precisely to keep the secrets hidden and preserve absolute control over all the variables? Wouldn’t it also require that they already know every possible cure for hair loss that can exist already so that they can correctly identify whoever is close to the cure in order to target them specifically? How did they discover all possible cures themselves? Are there no other players on a global level that aren’t in the hair transplant business that have more money than them and don’t care about making their business obsolete?

            1. Thanks for your concern over the past 20 years of my life. It really means a lot coming from someone who has all the answers (or questions). Also, thanks for letting me know about Joe Rogan. I can’t believe how you’ve just given me a life-changing new perspective by mentioning Joe Rogan! You’re very impressive, and it’s great how you can come on a hair loss forum to tell people how they should be living their lives to the fullest despite baldness or scars (you haven’t seen) because… Joe Rogan. This is a great forum to pull the anonymous self-righteous routine in order to feel better about yourself. Hey, why are you on this website? Get over your baldness and go live like Jason Statham. You shouldn’t be here on this site. It’s pathetic. I pitty you (psychologically speaking).

              Yes, hair transplant surgeons do have tremendous money and power, and they do speak and coordinate with each other through various means (national and international meetings are good places to swap email addresses). I think you’re overstating things to claim that they’d need a CIA-style network to keep tabs on developments and slow progress down a bit.

              Hair surgeons have recieved $40k from me for 5 days of work (while also working on concurrent clients), so it’s reasonable to assume they collectively have a lot money and a lot to lose.

              Also, the wig business is massive. Payoffs and buyouts of competing products are commonplace in business, despite your line of questioning intended to make that concept seem difficult and far-fetched.

              Anyway, somebody will eventually get something to market due to huge profit potential, but headwinds from enormous existing competition has very likely been a factor over the past 20 years of false predictions and failures regarding hair loss cures.

              1. Take it easy guys.
                At least there is a cure out there. Yeah I am talking about avodart. If you get side effects bad for you but if you don’t then no reason to worry about a potential cure because even if one comes out its not going to be a magic pill that should be taken once in a lifetime.
                Its risky but if there are no side effects it can do wonders.

              2. I’m just curious then, why is the richest man on earth still bald? Is he in on it? Do the transplant surgeons and wig makers have more money or power than him?

                1. Because it seems he simply doesn’t care about hair loss at all. Check out Ellon Musk, he got all his hair back. Another example is Ashton Kutcher who openly admitted that he used avodart successfully for more than 10 years.
                  It works, but some users reported side effects therefore there is a risk.

                  1. It’s sad that you feel the need to personally attack people that disagree with you. I’m happy to inform you that your continued insults have no effect on me. You could have just stayed on topic but unfortunately, insecurity got the better of you. There is no point in trying to have a discussion with someone who only wants to fight so I’m not wasting any more time on a delusional, professional victim, aggressive troll like yourself.

                  2. I was talking to tin foil Slick over here, Steve, not attacking you. You are making total sense to me :)
                    The claim that there is some kind of secret or suppressed cure is simply absurd, if you look at all the IMMENSE wealthy people going bald. For sure they does not all not care.

  3. i don’t why you so sceptic about it. If it’s really work it wouldn’t take a lot of time to be in market, because it’s not a drug

  4. Professor Xudong Wang
    Hi ,
    Not available for sale yet. We expect to start a human test within 6 months and submit it to the market about one year or so.

  5. What’s low cost? Those laser hats are 500+. Also, what does recently lost hair mean? A year, two years, five years or a month?

  6. Why don’t we just dip our heads in a tub of water and throw in a blow dryer lol that would send some electricity to our scalps pretty quick hahaha 2019 and we are back to electric helmets for mpb. Gotta love the aesthetics industry. Only out to take our money with scams.

  7. ^Admin

    Have you heard of topical retinoids being used for hair loss?
    A more recently published study showed clinical significance in adding retinoic acid to minoxidil in patients with androgenetic alopecia.
    link to full-text article: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/dth.12915
    • “None of the subjects had used minoxidil, finasteride, or a retinoid (topical or oral) during the past 6 months.”
    • Some key points: topical retinoid enhances minoxidil absorption; agonism of the retinoic acid receptor (RXR) enhances activity of follicular sulfotransferases; they used 0.1% topical tretinoin cream.

    Also of note, adapalene gel 0.1%, a topical retinoid, is an OTC acne product (used to be prescription only). And it’s been shown to regrow hair in patients with alopecia areata.
    link to full-text article: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1111/dth.12574

  8. This seems very snake-oily to me, but after researching it, it seems that pulsed electromagnetic frequency therapy has been used in some medical and veterinary fields for decades, and is FDA approved for osteogenesis (bone growth) in cervical fusions. Not really a lot of science on it, though. Stimulating stem cells? Affecting WNT pathways? Magic?

    There is some literature for those who want to look for it that suggests optimal frequencies and voltages for hair growth in a murine model. Yeah, more mice. But my point is that the amount of power generated by this cap would be unlikely to generate the sufficient voltage, or suggested frequency, unless I’m mistaken. The research document about the above-mentioned device is mostly about the technical specs of the components that translate motion into electricity, not the electrical regeneration of hair per se. Moreoever, the hair growth shown in the mice seems to involve far more invasive contact between skin and electrodes than one would get from wearing a simple cap — particularly if there’s any hair between the electrodes and the scalp.

    This seems like an appropriate follow-up to the previous post about light therapy (laser caps, etc.), as it seems like it may be a case where a (in this case, proposed) commercial device claims to be effective based on peer-reviewed and long-established research, even though its output (electricity or light) is nowhere close to the amounts used in research papers or in the clinical setting. For instance, the ridiculous laser comb that’s widely sold is capable of putting out a small fraction of the light energy over a small fraction of the scalp that is proposed to be effective in studies. This pulsed electromagnetic field cap would likewise only generate a fraction of the power suggested as therapeutically beneficial in previous studies, at a frequency inconsistent with previously studied frequencies (the documents are unclear on this issue).

    Seems like another forthcoming commercial device that invokes real science to sell a sham device. My guess is that producing effective devices is either prohibitively expensive or they are too difficult to use for commercial sales. It’s honestly surprising, though, as lasers are now cheap as dirt and creating low-voltage, frequency-modulated electrical fields isn’t hard or expensive after a century-and-a-half of living in an electrified world.

    Of course, another possibility is that the research is not reproducible and there is no effect, whatever the energy outputs.

    Another win for capitalism, I guess.

  9. @Admin,
    do you know what happened to Stuart Maddin’s research after that article was published? I found something on the web that resembles the device described in the article.
    http://shop.biophysica.com/articles/285.php

    I wonder why his findings never led to anything practical when his trials showed such impressive results. This article is from 30 years ago. There could’ve been more than enough trials done since then!

    I’m actually starting to believe Xudong Wang may have found something big here.

    1. I bought one of these devices and it was useless.

      That being said, if you really believe in this stuff, there is a strong relationship between electronics and magnetism. Perhaps a series of tiny magnets placed on or around the head may yield better results than a series of infra-red diodes.

      Then there is ultrasound. It has helped in physiotherapy so why not this?

    2. bw, Maddin died a few years ago after practicing into his 90s. Apparently he was well respected in the field of dermatology.

      The only other time he published on what has come to be called “electrotrichogenesis” was two years after the 1990 study, in 1992. According to the abstract of that, longer-term research continued, up to 70 weeks, with positive results but with the usual caveats.

      For some reason, his two published pieces on electrotrichogenesis include another initial in his name, confounding pubmed searches. They are credited to Maddin WS, instead of Maddin S. Same guy, though

      No idea why there has been only sporadic research since. We’ve all asked that question about a dozen other companies, procedures, and promising research compounds, though.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1478771.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrotrichogenesis

  10. Not sure if the concept is the same, but in Brazil, I used to go under a treatment called “Capillary Ionization”. I would hold an electrode on one hand and the doctor would pass another electrode on my scalp massaging it with some solution. She explained that it was an alternate current being passed through my scalp that would carry the nutrients or whatever, I don’t recall very well. I could feel the electric current, that’s for sure.

    Back then my hair was going very well, a lot of regrowth. But hard to say if this had an effect since I was using minoxidil as well.

    In Brazil, where clinics can do a lot even though I am not sure if there is decent scientific backing, this procedure is done in loads of clinics. It is offered as much as micro-needling.

    1. Wonder what was in that solution Pietro…sounds a little like iontophoresis based enhanced medicine delivery via electricity, though probably not.

  11. It is strange feeling, you have no control over your body.
    I say: hair-grow!! I concentrate to think this way, but my body has other master. Hmmmmmm

  12. Does anyone have a working e-mail for Replicel? I tried the one on their website, but I got a bounceback reply.

    For the record, I want to enquire about Phase II. Specifically, when we are likely to hear results.

    1. They themselves don’t know. There is more chance of them asking you to contact their partner Shiseido to find out for them. Their CEO even did this on Twitter. If you want to know you will need to contact Shiseido, specifically whoever is in charge at their facility in Kobe.

          1. Here is the exact response I got:

            “Hi Stephen,

            The “phase II” study in Japan has recently completed and we are awaiting the results from Shiseido.

            The questions of how many injections will be required and how long results will last are very much active questions at the moment. We do not have definitive answers. Our best guess at the moment is that best results will be gained from a series of injections over 3 months and then ‘boosters’ every year or two for the treated areas but hair loss may progress in untreated areas that need to be addressed in the interim.

            We believe we will have better results than all current injection or topical treatments but, again, this must be confirmed with definitive clinical data.

            Having said all that, we currently do not believe that areas previously treated with other products (even injectables) will preclude RCH-01 treatments or somehow have poorer results from RCH-01 injections than previously untreated areas.

            Hope that helps.

            –Lee

            Lee Buckler
            President & CEO
            RepliCel Life Sciences Inc”

            Thoughts?

            @admin, I hope you don’t mind me posting this.

  13. I will put my fingers into an electrical outlet 2 times a day for 6 months and take before and after pictures, i will come back with the results…

  14. To Admin and other others interested in overall regenerative medicine, there is a fascinating presentation by Frequency Therapuetics (related to the IPO) here: https://www.retailroadshow.com/presentation/#/?presid=565118&isretail=true It details their PCA platform and how quickly they saw benefits in their FX-322 treatment for hearing. Notably, one of the components used in activating progenitor cells in the ear is sodium valproate (at about the 12 minute mark), believed to be one of the components being used by Follica. They also said (at about the 30 minute mark) that they have already developed dual pathways and related IP showing promise in over 6 different tissues. They don’t specifically say which ones but the chart shows 9 tissues, one of which is hair.

      1. Back in the early 90’s I used to get treatments with monox – followed by a static electricity wand that I was told was also used for blood circulation for those that had lost fingers (hands), etc.

        Don’t know if it really worked but it was pretty uncomfortable.

        PS always enjoy Scott’s take on things.

        1. Static electricity wand :-) Sounds like a CIA torture device!

          So did these people grow their fingers/hands back? Even by 2019 standards that would be medically impressive.

    1. Good find. It is bad they don’t elaborate on what will be different in this next phase. Higher dosage, or same dosage but more test subjects?
      A natural density of hair will have between 70 and 100 hairs per square cm. Their injections after 6 months only produced 7.
      But being optimistic for a moment, this would be good if those 7 new hairs became permanent and a repeated course produced another 7, because you could have the same treatment every 6 months and reach density 70 after 5 years.

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