Hair-Bearing Skin Generated from Pluripotent Stem Cells

Update: January 18, 2022 — Dr. Karl Koehler is covered in detail in the second half of a new article in MIT Technology Review.

“I think people will go pretty far to get their hair back. But at first it will be a bespoke process and very costly.”

Update: The podcast for the below news is here.

Pluripotent Stem Cells and Hair Growth

Yesterday a very important study was published in Nature Magazine. It is titled “Hair-bearing human skin generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells”. The scientists behind this research took 6 years to complete and publish their work.

The study has numerous co-authors from a few medical centers and universities based in the US. The lead author is Dr. Jiyoon Lee, while the correspondence author is Dr. Karl Koehler. The latter works at Boston Children’s Hospital as well as Harvard Medical School. Moreover, Dr. Koehler’s lab has its own site, on which he published a post about these findings.

Dr. Karl Koehler via Twitter

Pluripotent Stem Cells to Grow Hair
Pluripotent Stem Cells to Grow Hair. From Dr. Karl Koehler’s Twitter feed.

From Skin Organoids to Hair

In this latest research, undifferentiated human stem cells were successfully coaxed into developing skin-like organoids in vitro. When these human-derived structures were grafted onto immuno-compromised bald mice, the rodents produced robust (albeit shorter length) hair.

Note that in 2015, Dr. Alexey Terskikh and his team used pluripotent stem cells from humans to create dermal papilla type cells. These were then injected into hairless mice and grew hair.

Pluripotent Stem Cells Hair Growth
Pluripotent Stem Cells and Hair Growth — Nature Magazine.

In this new work, the scientists generated near-complete skin organoids first that ultimately resulted in pigmented hair. The skin cells grew in a sphere and were “fed” with various chemicals and growth factors (such as BMP4 and FGF2) for 4-5 months. Both the dermis and epidermis skin layers were grown successfully.

If this work goes through successful clinical trials, it will essentially mean a cure for hair loss. Nevertheless, the global media has largely ignored this research, with the UK’s Mirror being a notable exception. And as always, the Daily Mail too.

Cotsarelis Rises Again

Prolific blog commentator “MJones”‘ favorite hair loss researcher and fellow Alexander the Great progeny Dr. George Cotsarelis has been missing in action of late. However, this new research is so significant, that Dr. Cotsarelis and Dr. Leo Wang wrote a detailed article summarizing it in Nature Magazine.

Per the two doctors, this study represents a major step towards a cure for baldness in humans. They are confident that this research will eventually see its promise realized. This technique makes it possible to produce human hair without having to take any donor hair from the human.

Moreover, individuals who have major wounds, scars and genetic skin diseases will all benefit from revolutionary new treatments based on this research. That is if it comes to clinic of course.

In these times of pandemics, protests and riots, it is great to see Dr. Cotsarelis’ still unabated optimism. Ironically, for “MJones”, the glass has always been half empty.

Further reading: An excellent 2019 paper summarizing tissue engineering strategies for human hair follicle regeneration.

49 thoughts on “Hair-Bearing Skin Generated from Pluripotent Stem Cells”

  1. Thanks for this. More good news and reason for hope. Forgive my ignorance, but how does this differ from the announcement of last summer from Stemson Therapeutics? Is this a completely different approach?

    1. That would be also my exact question. Is there something new to that research? Currently there is Tsuji and Stemson working on iPSc-therapies – what’s the difference to them? I cannot spot it at first sight.

      The papers regarding those companies are from 2015 and 2016 – if Koehler’s work is the same, then he is pretty late to the party. Although still precious as it confirms the technology.

      What’s your take on it, admin?

  2. Hello there
    Thanks for your hard work.
    Please let me know if it does work for Alopecia .
    I have alopecia universalis since I was 14 years old and now i am 37 years and still have Alopecia .
    Thanks alot

    1. Perhaps. But cost will be a big issue. Personally, I hope L’Oreal can bring hair bio printing to market within the next few years. Printing hair follicles will surely help keep down the cost. Tsuji has already indicated that his cure will be very costly (at least initially) and will be out of reach for anyone who is not relatively wealthy.

  3. That’s the kind of news that makes me be optimistic about the future. This is progress, this breakthrough could possibly lead to a giant leap towards the cure of baldness. All of the products close to being available don’t really excite me (follica, samumed, breezula ) as most likely none of them is going to replace finasteride, and none of them is going to make a difference on a guy who has already lost most of his hair. But man this one makes me smile and the fact that this news was covered by other experts in the field is also encouraging.
    Take care everyone

  4. Oh my, I thought nothing would make me like 2020 but, okay. This seems like great news. I’ve been focusing on my hair too much again since the corona virus. I’m on the fence to buy minoxidil. But my skin is already a mess because of my eczema, I don’t want to look older. Well, I’ll be dermaroll tonight again. Been using peppermint oil + rosemary oil. Been taking pics and it looks like it kinda works. I’m 30 years old and I have diffuse thinning at the top, really bad. But all those miniaturized hairs have been there for years. Man I hope this will be it!

    1. @Evilgenius

      Please give us more details on the rosemary and peppermint solution you are using.

      Carrier oil? How much, how often? What are your results?

      Thanx, Netshed

  5. Haha admin I feel so appreciated when you mention me in your articles:) Yes my boy cots is still pushing forwards. I stand my ground when I said he will bring us our next treatment. My glass is always half full because nothing is promised in our lovely hair loss industry. This new breakthrough is exciting but most likely many years away from clinical inpatient use at our local derm or ht clinic.

    1. There must be some psychological reason why you said “half full” when you meant “half empty”! I am glad you read the last part of the post and appreciate your continued diligence. In spite of the slow pace of progress in a hair loss cure release.

  6. These are very good News, but i think, that it still will be a Long Road to a permanent Cure. There are still a Lot of questions to answer, before they could start trials with humans. So we have to expect 5-10 years, maybe more+ high costs.

  7. Thanks Admin for quick reporting. Regenerative medicine is incredible; it’s only a matter of time before follicles are an end result. And maybe they’ll turn back the clock on aging shortly after :-) Hopefully society makes it through these rough times because there’s a lot of good tech to look forward to in the next 10 years.

  8. I got a response from organ technologies. I emailed them. They said they couldn’t disclose anything because of investors and that they still had obstacles they were resolving. Most of the bozos on here didnt listen to me when I said this will work on humans. It did 20 years ago. pluripotent cells have a 20% chance of rejection in the body. In most studies, 1 in 5 patients have the “cloned cells” destroyed by he immune system because it recognizes it as foreign. I think that’s the last hurdle to be honest. Like I said 2-3 years away, full commercialization most likely 2024. Thats pretty good to be honest. Prp used to be 5k when it came out, now its 500. If anybody has questions let me know

    1. Hi Jake, good to hear from you. If I understand you correctly, that‘s only the case for Tsuji‘s iPSc-therapy (as you said the immune-reaction is a known iPSC-problem). Could this be solved by some sophisticated testing of the patient before application?

      How about the other two approaches (organ germ method and dermal papilla method) of Tsuji which do not use iPScs?

      1. Look I’ll be honest, I know alot about chemical and biological research. But I have no idea how this could possibly be resolved. In theory the cells are your own, but when they tested them for blindness, 4 of the 5 patients were cured, the 5th had the cells rejected. This was scene in 9-10 different use cases. The only two options would be to a.) take immuno suppressants(pills you take when you get organ transplants, wouldn’t recommend, you could easily die from a virus), b.) to manipulate the receptors. I don’t know if it can be fixed to be honest. People should be more worried about cell rejection than cancer to be honest. Organ germs and dermal papilla method use ips cells. All major cloning stem cell treatments except for replicel use ips cells.

        1. If you know a lot about chemical/biological research, maybe, maybe not, eventually you‘re just an anonymous poster.

          But you are definitely wrong with „all major cloning companies use IPS cells“. Tsuji‘s germ method uses mesenchymal and epithelial cells and NOT IPScs. Tissuse: no. Hairclone: no. Stemore: no.

          Only 2 companies work with IPScs: Stemson and Tsuji.

          Get your facts straight, bozo.

          1. sorry as I was skimming through your response and I didnt see the c in your answer. yeah your right, the only method I know that uses cup cells is replicel. All other “cloning” methods use ips cells. Your right on that.

              1. I said all major CLONING. Say what you want, and your wrong hairclone uses ips cells. They take a sample, differentiate the cells, and return them back to their original state. I suggest you do more research. I stand my ground.

                1. Repeating a false statement over and over doesn’t make it true.

                  I rather believe the official statements of these companies than your dubious claims.

                  Hairclone IPSc? Definitely not. Is it so hard to admit that you are wrong? What’s wrong with you? Maybe you are not the self-appointed expert you say you are? Maybe you should do your research?

                  Man, this is really embarrassing for you.

                  1. Hair clone uses Dermal papilla cells. Dermal papilla cells are mesenchymal cells. The same cells tsuji uses. Replicel uses dermal stealth cup cells(the outer membrane of the follicle). Dermal sheath cup cells are far easier to clone. The only way you can clone dermal papilla cells is by reverting them into an ips cell state, and proliferating the cells from there. Instead of berating scientist I suggest you shut the f*** up and do some research. Here’s an article for you to read. You, Ben and others should start readying the science behind these companies. As I said before. I stand by claim.


                    1. I will be taking a break from the site, I will not be avidly reaching out to my research friends in Japan. I feel as though this community needs to think about their statements before posting. My intention was to state facts, and to attack clear cut research is like saying global warming isn’t real. That’s what alot of you sound like. Best of luck guys.

                    2. Hey Jake you have been very helpful and would be a shame to see you stop posting. Please do not worry about one or two people arguing with you. I have been too busy and not motivated enough to check on who is most accurate when it comes to the technical details of stem cell biology.

  9. Don’t listen to the professional miseries who say this is all still twenty years off. They don’t know. It could take twenty years, and it might take five to seven. We just don’t know. What we do know is that there are now lots of companies around the World that are working on hair multiplication using different techniques and approaches; we know that some have made significant breakthroughs (and not just with mice); and that at least two are known to be planning human trials within the next couple of years. So there is much to be optimistic about.

  10. …”fellow Alexander the Great progeny”…
    That was hilarious, Admin!

    I digress.
    There is only one thing that quite worries me in this paper: new hair did not grow to a normal size.
    This has been a fear of mine in regards to Tsuji since the beginning.
    I hope it is an iPSC problem and not an adult cell problem.
    Fingers crossed!

    1. Glad you got it! Most people will be totally confused, especially since “MJones” did not pick a username in keeping with his parents’ preference.

    2. your wrong, in tsuji’s trial in 2018, hair grew to the same diameter, thickness and color as the original hair follicle.

  11. We still have a long way to go for these regenerative treatments but eventually we will get there. Its moving in the right track. Jake Palmer – the email from organ tech didnt give you a time frame. They still have obstacles that they are working on. So not sure where you get the time frame for 2023 full commercial release. People aren’t bozos just because they have a different view than you. Just because you want tsuji to win so much doesn’t mean he will release it quicker. I agree with you that he is furthest ahead in the hair multiplication race, but saying it will be available in 3.5 years may be far fetched. Once they start human phase 1 trials and complete them successfully then I’ll get excited but they are still working things out and have been the past couple years. Since you’ll probably attack me about follica lol I’ll get excited for that once he actually starts phase 3 this year, but they are known for delays. Anywho it’s all a waiting game for us and we will have to keep waiting. Once we hear about tsuji on the nightly news, that’s when I’ll get really excited:)

    1. Look, Follica is just histogen with a microneedling device. Histogen has a higher chance of coming out later than tsuji. And no, I don’t care if tsuji comes out or not. It excites me because im part of the scientific community. If all my hair falls out in 5 years, I’ll just wear a hair system. Granted I will give you this. If they run the first trial and issues come up, a release will likely extend to 2030. If not I stand by my 2023 timeline. I will say this too, hair follicle biology in mice is completely different in humans. Thats why we failed for 50 years. But tsuji was the first to recreate a human environment with human cells into mice and hair regrew. Thats all I have to say.

    1. I fear that if I show the screenshot, they won’t respond to me again. I’m part of the medical community and told them that when I emailed them. I’m willing to show it to one person, but I don’t want it public out of respect. I don’t know why you think I would lie about an email, the email didnt reveal anything game changing in my opinion.

  12. Well said jake palmer. I think we are getting closer to an agreement:)

    Admin, I got your reference of alexander the great. What I use as a screen name on this site has nothing to do with my Greek pride. That was a pretty stupid comment on your part. You are better than that bro

    1. Relax, its a joke Mjones. Since you have brought up your Greek pride and typed in Greek in the past. Didn’t you make fun of my given pseudonym in some newspaper article story before?

  13. Good post, admin. I’m still a little confused about how this is different from Tsuji or others. They can produce follicles without taking any donor follicles from a patient? Also, how far along is this development wise? Preclinical? Phase 1,2,3? Or not even there yet? Thx

    1. Yes Greg, in this technique they can produce short hair follicles even without any donor hair follicles. Just from skin.

      1. Cool. But do you see this treatment going into trials anytime soon? Or is it already? Also, would you compare this to the other company making allogenic follicles from blood? (Forgot their name)

  14. This study is still done on mouse and hairs were short, so this treatment is years away from clinical application. They need to solve other problems. Plus, they used iPSCs which will bring more regulations from FDA.

    1. I don’t see this ever getting approved in the US for the next 10 years. Spinal cord stem cell injections from placentas have been in Mexico for years but banned in the US for safety and ethical reasons. This treatment will most likely be in asian, middle eastern and European countries first before it hits the U.S. And the U.S has alot of lobbying parties that make it hard for regulation to change. In my opinion, a big Pharma company like Pfizer will copy Tsuji after release and make it a high priced treatment in the U.S.

    2. years? I would say 10+ bare minimum maybe longer. The trials alone if started tomorrow would take almost that long plus doing that kind of thing in mass is going to take time. The cost for this is going to crazy high too.
      Not to be pessimistic, but just be realistic.

  15. @Jake+palmer There are no ethical reasons for iPSCs. The only problem is that they are no 100% safe.

  16. Jake+palmer- the new nasa for the tsuji treatment instead of JAK? :D man, it’s nice that you show enthusiasm and that you might have more expertise than the average guy on this forum. But unless you’re not direct part of the Tsuji research team, please slow down with any prognoses regarding timelines and also the effectiveness of the treatment. So far we do not have a single evidence that it might work. They just introduced what we are already used to from the other players in the game: delay.

  17. Does anyone have experience with topical oils against alopecia androgenetica?

    Which dht-inhibiting oils do you use? For example:
    Cedar wood
    Saw palmetto

    How often do you apply it?
    What are your results?
    Side effects?

    Thanx in advance,

  18. Its good news, but going from this through trials and scaling it to do it in mass is going to take a decade at the very least.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *