Tokyo University and RIKEN Grow Skin with Hair Follicles

On April 1, a distinguished team of researchers from Japan published an important paper in the journal Science Advances describing how they successfully grew skin tissue in the lab (using reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells) which was then transplanted onto mice.  The transplanted skin included fully functioning hair follicles with perfect growth and resting phase cycling (“no significant differences in the hair cycle periods were found between natural and bioengineered follicles“), sweat glands and sebaceous glands.  Note that the original cells were also taken from mice (from their gums to be precise).  Most importantly, there were no tumors or other life threatening disorders seen in the transplant recipient mice.  It is still too early to tell whether such skin can act as real skin when it comes to its function of protecting the human body, cooling it and so forth.

It seems like this team was led by Dr. Ryoji Takagi from Tokyo University of Science and the renowned Dr. Takashi Tsuji from RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, with further collaboration with several other Japanese institutions.  On a somewhat related note, the main initial work surrounding induced pluripotent stem cells (known as iPS cells or iPSCs) was undertaken by Japanese scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka in 2006, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for this in 2012.

When I first read this story I was planning to include it in my next brief items of interest post around the middle of this month.  I did not want to devote a whole blog post to this development (primarily because of the unclear human testing time frame projections involved — more on that later).  However, this discovery soon started getting widespread global coverage.  More importantly, 3 readers e-mailed me about it and probably another 10 posted about it in the comments to the last blog post!  All the main hair loss forums have threads on this subject too.  Here is some of the global coverage:


Popular Mechanics.

Daily Mail.


Deutsche Welle.


And from the horse’s own mouth.

The most debated issue on the hair loss forums has been the time frame before this is tested in humans. According to the BBC article “Researchers say this success will take 5-10 years to translate into humans.”  According to the Mic article, “Optimistically, Tsuji said, they’re looking at sometime in the next 10 years.”  According to the Popular Mechanics article, RIKEN researcher “Miho Ogawa estimates the first human trials will come within the next 10 years.

I think that “within 10 years” could end up being in less than 5 years. I have three reasons for my optimism —

  1. Japan’s rapidly aging and declining population will need regenerative stem cell therapies well before most other countries in the world.
  2. As I have discussed on this blog many times in the past year or two, the Japanese government is nowadays extremely focused at speeding up human clinical trials in the regenerative medicine sector  that will allow for short cuts such as skipping stage 3 clinical trials.  I see no reason why they could also not speed up the process of moving from animal to human trials.
  3. When it comes to funding, Japan is a rich nation that can afford to spend substantially on such research.  Both via government funding and private funding (including foreign based private funding).  On a related not, in my last brief items of interest post from March, I discussed the recent collaboration between RIKEN and private sector company Meiji Seika related to hair loss (albeit it seems their might be some incorrect info in that announcement).  Also, in my second last brief items of interest post from February, I discussed another collaboration between RIKEN and Adjuvant Cosmetics.

Finally, it should be noted that more than for hair loss sufferers, this research is especially relevant to those with serious skin injuries and burns.  Moreover, these methods could one day be used to create functioning organs that are suitable for transplantation.  I recently read that once we have self-driving cars, traffic fatalities will decline to negligible levels, resulting in a major increase in already serious organ donor shortages.

100 thoughts on “Tokyo University and RIKEN Grow Skin with Hair Follicles”

  1. Finally the cure is coming. I always thought that there will be no cure except some treatments, but now i think the cure is possible here. GREAT HOPE.


  2. I just worry that we, all of us, wont be around to enjoy that sweet fruit once its ready to be picked (:

  3. How hard it is to do this on your own? I own a cnc workshop and I can build me a microbiology lab with any kind of tools/machines (3d bio printing machines too.. if I get to know how their nozzles work and how they push material) in a matter of few weeks and Im sure I can get all of the lab chems/products through my friends. I already own few microscopes and even I have two centrifuges and a taste for some pro-home-bio hacking.

    1. Incredibly hard.

      There’s no cutting corners with this kind of thing. Getting to this result will have taken hundreds of failures, and thats with a team of highly experienced professionals and the best equipment and material money can buy.

      The reason this is even halfway feasible for a team is because they have a bunch of smart people all working on different problems at once.

      It would take a single guy with a home built lab half a lifetime to replicate the result, if ever.

      And that result is an extremely prototypical example of what would could be a commercial treatment. Doing this reliably and safely and at scale to treat baldness of a whole head is another huge hurdle requiring even more time and money.

      Of course you could probably afford an imitation of the process, but “close enough” will not do with this kind of high precision cell culturing. All you will do is waste a lot of money messing with cells and accomplishing nothing.

      Even if you could overcome every technical hurdle and somehow have funds for the many costly attempts to get it right, it would still take years for you to amass the kind of expertise required, the kind found in a team of professionally trained scientists who’ve been working on this for years.

      By that time this technology could have advanced to the mass market.

      There’s no rushing this thing unless you’re going to invest significant money into existing research projects.

  4. After some time getting to know the different prospective treatments, I believe Riken lab is the only legit hope for a cure for being able to grow brand new hair follicles – their stated aim from the off.

    In 2012 however, after a mice hair experiment they said it would be ready for humans in “at least 10 years”. Now in 2016 it’s “within 10 years”, albeit they are saying this for the artificial skin but it would be a similar timescale for hair.

    Then if and when the time does come, how is a small specialist lab going to roll this delicate treatment out to millions of eager customers? The potential waiting list worries me.

    My hunches for some of the others:

    Histogen – Fraudsters. No cure here. Dr. Naughton comes across nicely, which made me believe her at first. Then I saw the fake pictures and her yearly presentations have been going on since 2008 with no new evidence coming forth. Ziering was involved in the combover pic. Naughton can’t be so naive surely.
    If this ever comes to fruition it will at best be a PRP, maintenance type of treatment. Their “hair stimulating complex” is incapable of growing new hair follicles.

    Replicel: Very little hope in these guys. Their Dr. ROLF is an odd character, I don’t trust his claims at all. All he did before now was invent a hair counting device which apparently doesn’t work very well!
    Lee Bucker likes to put a positive spin on it, but he is after all a slick businessman so its his job to do that. He has no medical background.
    The images they have demonstrated of hair counts are the same before and after, i.e. no new hair follicles. Very sad.
    Shiseido have been taken in, but they paid Repicel small change so if it fails or doesnt live up to promise well they wont lose sleep over it. Will still make money from a prp style treatment. Another maintenance treatment at best.

    Samumed: They are not claiming to create new follicles. Could be a minoxidil style treatment. Meh.

    Follicum: Confirmed that they are aiming for a souped up minoxidil style treatment but their peptides cannot create brand new hair follicles.

    Cristiano/Jak inhibitors: Don’t really consider this relevant for AGA as it only work for AA. Dr. Cristiano has been news media darling for years.

    I know there are a few other companies in the mix like the Canadian/Chinese team, but I get the feeling they are behind Riken lab in terms of progress.

    Riken are brilliant but afaik they are working on multiple things at once (teeth, organs, skin). Hair is just one thing they are developing. And they are a really small team.

    If they were only focusing on hair then we would see a cure so much sooner.

    1. Well said about histogen absolute garbage…Dr naughty will be there few more years until her mortgage finishes.. and Dr ROLF from replicel is more like ROFL … sammy hasnt got anything ..thats why they said 10% so that they dont look absolute shit….and I dont believe in companies which start with F like follica, follicum, fU, fHaHa ….only thing Iam hoping are the JAK shit…and a little bit hope in Japs….

      1. You forgot Farhan for the F words. You are just miserably envious completely bald people. Reality is it is obvious that young bald people will have better maintenance products in a few years.

        For regrowth, do a hair transplant.

        1. Dude Jean paul gaultiere….first of all im not bald at all…I have full head of hair…I had little frontal hair loss and got fue done…im 29 by the way…actually no one even know that im bald..I have said many times in this blog to get fue done to many people…Iam not pissed on companies that they are not trying as it is not their problem…. the only thing that pisses me is these scamsters like histogen…seriously dude how many years of trials….what is she getting lotion from kryptonite…..

          1. I agree. On my side, I was personally impressed by Samumed. 3 months of application could maintain several months / years? This is amazing, but they will face a mountain of problems issued by the FDA due to the nature of the drug. But the industry is far away than 10 years ago. I do not see so much scammers and we understand baldness in another level.

    2. This is spot on RoboC ! Bravo !

      Replicel tricked many people with this Shiseido thing but I think that they are probably preparing for another PRP style treatment. I don’t even believe in maintenance theory.

      I do have some hope in anti-inflammatory drugs as a possible maintenance drug. That being said, Jak Inhibitors are probably overhyped for marketing reasons.

      Riken is a distant future…

  5. Of course. all of you before enjoying the technology of Tsuji Labs / Riken. Before, you have a new treatments, won’t be a cure, but
    these new treatments help AGA/MPB 100% SURE. Easy for NW4.

    Awesome work admin and amazing blog.

  6. Exciting news! This will take a while to hit main stream market but it looks like they got something really freaking great for modern medicine. I am not really hopeful for susheido. These Japanese seem to be masters in cell manipulation for hair. Fingers crossed they can get our hair back with susheido that is our current future within 2 to 3 yrs.

  7. @mjones

    Do you believe the shiseido treatment will be able to create new hair follicles or just shore up existing ones? Because to me a real cure is creating new follicles from scratch.

    1. No, it will not (at least in the beginning), they already said it. But keep in mind you still have some follicles even if you do not see any hairs on a spot. :)

  8. Hi robo, I think they will be able to just store up existing ones. But that’s what we really need . All of our follicles are miniaturized not dead so theoretically we just need to kick start them to grow again. Now those who are burn victims would need new follicles. Right? This is what I think

  9. I don’t really understand..Is this a separate project that Tsuji is working on? Is this just more information to the Tsuji update posted a week or two ago? ..

  10. the only thing that i don’t understand here is why some of you guys are always talking bs about the companies, we’re improving in this hairloss field, so shut the f**k up guys and go to your house to complain and cry on your pillows.
    we need to be patience, i know it’s difficult and we’ve been hearing ‘in 5 years’ but we’re closer, thats a reality, we know so much more about medicine in the last 10 years than the 100 years before, so if you guys are desperate, just get a FUE and wait for the coming treatments.


  11. That’s another….Hair transplant field needs to improve. Improvements in this field (hair transplant) are also expected. :)

  12. Everyone is so negative about every company. If all these companies are out here to sell us false treatments:

    1) Why would they since it’s unethical and illegal since they’re with recorded clinical trials
    2) Why would they spend 10-15 years studying a specific science and with their career/reputations at stake, to develop a treatment that will be inaffective

    Insane. Jack and Joe from hairloss forums looking at histogen pictures and commentating on how the angle has changed, how the guys hair was combed differently and that the color of shirt added more volume haha.

    Any of these companies could come out with a successful treatment (not cure) for AGA sufferers. The sciencemag article about the stem cells in hair follicles turning into skin cells was a pretty huge deal. Which leads onto the wounding + effective treatment. I still believe the only cure is CRISPR, finding out what exactly causes MPB and correcting it.

  13. The existing hair industry is very strong and makes many billions of dollars profit every year, so what do you think guys?
    The only way to get THE CURE sooner on the market is …….., exactly!

  14. I will be happy with a treatment that can work better than Rogaine at this point. I need some diffuse thickening and stopping further loss. Shit if Rogaine worked like how it claims on the box my ads wouldn’t be on this forum. Especially if Propecia kept working how it did for me the first 12 years I would have never hopped on Rogaine. Stupid medicine losing effectiveness. Merk should have a solution for medicine tolerance for Propecia so that it can keep holding strong.

  15. Hey guys,

    This is my very first post but I’ve been reading the post and discussions to see what there is out there in the market. I have done Fue before but guess what…u can cover a spot but the natural hair u have will fall down. ..genetics is a bitch and if u are meant to be bald u gonna be bald!!!

    My post is not to be more negative but all these researches seem a bit coming down to a chronic failure all the time and a bit like what’s going on in your head… (literally) slowing down the process of being bald…but cure?? Hmm I don’t think that the big cosmetic industries and renowed plastic surgeons will want a product that can simply restore hair and limit their work to boobjobs. lifting etc..

    That being said… if there would be a brilliant mind (researcher amongst us and preferably bald and wanting to see his head full of hair without surgery. ..9 months..rogaine..minoxidil and all the night rituals gently rubbing my head…) we could perhaps open a closed com unity. Everyone would put a 1€ or 1$ and we would start our own trials at our own speed not listening to promises and loads of bs from this people because honestly…I think that whenever a cure is near…The pharmaceutical..dermatological associations and plastic surgeons etc will boicot this cure of reaching the market…. let’s face it…a shampoo or lotion to apply once and your full of hair for life…!? Do you seriously think that is going to happen?

    1. I’d rather just continue to live a normal life than be a ginny pig in a community hanging around with men testing crap on our heads lol. I don’t really see your point though with this post, as this is skin (and follicle) regeneration which is amazing for the future of everything to do with ageing…hopefully we will be able to regenerate fully functioning organs with almost no chance of rejection, that’s beyond amazing to even think about…of course a general way of curing all cancers would be number 1 amazing things to happen, this 2nd lol.

    2. Stop talking nonsense. The richest people in the world would pay millions of money for a cure for androgenetic alopecia. They paid many more millions of “million currently moving the industry of hair loss.” Exist a lof of demand for a new treamtment.
      They have cheated people with androgenetic alopecia a lot of years with snake-oils.
      Sorry, but everything has an end. We will have a new effective treatment 100% sure and maybe a cure.


  16. At least the FDA is committed to streamlining phase 2 and 3 trials. They’ve released a draft of their new protocol, but it’s hard to find. May not mean things will be REALLY sped up, but it’s something.

    The good thing with the JAK inhibitor trials is that it is lumped in with all hair loss disorders. AGA won’t be left out. We can thank Dr. Christiano for that one.

    here’s an article on the plan to streamline trials:

      1. It was suppose to be 2016 but they pushed back to 2017 Someone on HLT broke it down and if true it will bring u back a few norwoods like the Doc said. He actually said it will take you back to the hair you had five years ago. Wait and see.

    1. Sounds to b*llsh*t to me.
      No media coverage in Italy. Nothing.
      I guess the Turkish university sounds the same type of story.

  17. Also this is just the same old news we got last year. Good news if its true but id like to know when this will be out AND see an actual website about the product, not just these obscure links.

  18. I’ve read in many forums that hair loss might be linked to follicle inflamation.
    I’ve also read that they have developed a cooling helmet for pations who are in chimiotheray to avoid hair loss.

    Did anyone apply ice on the bald area?
    Or maybe diclofenac or any other antiinflamatory?
    Most of the herbs and treatments are based on lowering the inflamation occurring on the bald area.

    Any comments?

  19. Guys I think jak is the answer… I have a feeling that this will be near to be the cure.. Even way before in an interview Dr Brett king said a topical might work for other hair losses

  20. Angela christiano is a god sent angel… God bless her for doing this to hair loss community… If she cures hair loss she should be given Nobel prize.

  21. Admin Check out hairlosstalk hellouser posted about new company claiming stemcell cure! Please let it be true.

    1. seems suspect, small company ( 1 million pounds in rev.) and recently granted a licence to do stem cell therapies in the Bahama’s and merged or something with some researcher who claims to have a cure using stem cells…and it just flew under the radar by ever other major researcher and company?

  22. They claim a cure and have a 100% success rate in males lol. Guessing it is similar to what lauster is/was doing

    This is the Dr. and clinic they joined for the stem cell treatment, with no mention of stem cell treatment anywhere…if this isn’t real, I’m sending a massive glitter bomb package to her for trying to claim she has a cure in some attempt to get attention. Hopefully she has a “cure”. Then I’ll open the glitter bomb on myself to celebrate instead.

  24. Hi just wondering wether to have fue on receding hairline I’ve been On propecia 1mg daily for 3 years and recently changed to 5mg broken up into 4 tabs but still shed like fxxx!… Worried if I wait till something better comes out it’ll b too late and I won’t have anything left, also wondering if having fue on hairline will jeopardise results from future treatments ( wether there’ll b to much hair growing out of hairline ) don’t know what to do, sorry I know some of you are probably completely bald and thinking what the fxxx is this guy moaning for but to me it has pretty much affected my whole life since I was 18/19 now 32 and some people will say just shave your head and b done with it but seriously if I shaved my head I would look like I’ve just escaped from a mental institute any advice would b appreciated thanks

  25. Thorn medical, very promising indeed. They flat out say they have the cure, and apperantly they are a trused medical company(not only for hair loss). They cant flat out lie and say 100% sucess, that would ruin their reputation for ever. One thing is for the brotzu lotion where they could say that it doesnt work for everyone etc.
    “Male pattern baldness will soon be a thing of the past”, let this be it!

  26. sounds like something where they can grow hair in a dish or something, 10% can survive (but still enough to fix/cure baldness) and they implant the hairs…?…hmmm. Wish they had a legit site or literally anything besides that press snippet.

  27. It seems that a new treatment for hair loss will be produced in the new 10 years, as well a cure will be available.

  28. I wonder if thorn has any patents out there that can be found . If you have the cure i have to belive you apply for a patent before you release a statement like that .

  29. This Thorn company is interesting. That’s a very bold statement to say CURE for mpb. It sounds like a scam because I won’t believe anything unless I see it, especially in the hair loss industry lol. I like how they pick the Bahamas. No rules and you can move ahead with treatment. Better than going to Mexico and getting kidnapped lol histogen brilliant locations for treatment. Let’s say this really is an effective cure, I want to know the side effects! No way you can skip clinical trials and just implant stem cell hair follicle without testing it out. Fingers crossed this is legit, no sides and it actually freaking works to grow us back our hair. Hell if this can replace ht it still a step in the right direction. Go to the Bahamas, grow 5 thousand follicles, implant them and hair growth in 3 to 6 months with no freak scars, bloody scalp recovery etc with fue, fut.

    1. thorn medical ? CURE? 100% success rate?
      their website is down and they found a cure for baldness loool funny shit …

  30. What’s nice tho is when we talk about Stem Cells researches, ‘growing’ skinand hair follicles is the 1st thing that comes in mind of those scientist involved. So we will probably see more and more companies popping in this field and that’s just good. Competition make things happen.

  31. Potentially great news! And agreed with Will_Mtl the more competition the better. I truly believe this is a race to be first to market. Every team knows the others are “close” and the incentive has never been higher or closer to providing a cure.

  32. Honestly, screw companies that come out with these headlines. What are you trying to accomplish besides getting people’s hopes up? Those people are SCUM.

    1. People are definitely jumping the gun here.

      They released the most basic PR with no information other than stem cells, cure and 100% reliability. They could have at least shed some details on their technics or a photo if they have done trials.

      If they’re legit awesome, but until there is more info there doesn’t even deserve to a comment post about it. Let alone admin’s hardpressed time to blog or contact them for more info.

    2. That’s what I am saying, dont make any claims until you have something…its like telling a kid lets go to disney land and then telling him april fools…

  33. On one hand ….the bahamas…..???? oook
    IK clinics website looks ghetto
    PR web is full of trash that’s an affiliate marketing domain not real news….
    Like admin always says stem cell CURE FOR BALDNESS sounds like fraud all over….

    on the OTHER hand

    1. Thorn Medical is a real british stem cell company with real MD’s and professionals on their board

    So … this is the same caliber as Replicel to me

  34. we missed this in January guys, there in the bahamas becasue the bahamas passed laws for stem cell labs….

    “We can grow everything from new arms to hearts
    We can repair tendons, torn ligaments, do spinal chord reconstructions, overhaul immune systems and grow everything from new arms to hearts. In theory, you could live for ever,” he said Jack Kaye, founder of Thorn Medical

  35. you guys do a good job at finding stuff but i feel like the follow up research is pretty slack, admin isn’t a super human you know- we can do our part and do simple google searches

    1. Yeah but Admin can reach out to them and would be the one to most likely get a response. He can say he is the owner of the most viewed hair loss blog on the web.

      1. I got in touch with the Turkish University professor with Kelopesia and he personally emailed me back the day after Admin talked about it..

  36. “My lab continues to work on developing novel treatments. The largest barrier is funding.*

    Dr. George Cotsarelis – 2015

    A Thorn Medical – Cotsarelis partnership in Thorn’s Bahamas facility would be great.

  37. the reason it doesn’t seem real to me is that if they are growing legit hair follicles (like the people in THIS post, like, fully functioning hair) then how could it be available when these researchers say it will be 5-10 years before it’s applied to humans…also read something about this Dr. applying stem cells to acne claiming it helped/cured acne but it didn’t…unless that was a different doctor experimenting with stem cells with the same last name.

    1. There is one thing I learned in life and that is if it’s too good to be true then it probably is. These guys needs to post 10 before and after pics, their techniques of this treatment and then 10 more untouched before after pics . Then they will have my attebtion.

      “Mjones Corporations claims pills that can cure short dick syndrome. Magic stem cell pills will grow 7 inches to your members. 100% success rate” available in the Bahamas 2016.

      See how easy it is to claim bs on the Internet. Watch my post attract 5 million short dick men haha

  38. Actually the thorn medical is a UK based company. The company seems to be legit but their claim of 100% cure doesn’t seem to be legit right now because there is no proof of their claiming.

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