The woman with the awesome hair is Dr. Angela Christiano—a dermatology researcher at Columbia University's Medical Center. Together with her colleagues, she has discovered a way to cure baldness on mice, as described in a new research paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The paper—titled Microenvironmental reprogramming by three-dimensional culture enables dermal papilla cells to induce de novo human hair-follicle growth—describes a new method that takes a group of dermal papilla cells, cultivates it in vitro and then reapplies the new cells to the patient, creating new hair.
Unlike a previous similar—but failed—process, this method keeps the cells' ability to grow hair, a process called hair neogenesis:
Growth of de novo hair follicles in adult skin occurs by a process known as hair neogenesis. One way of initiating neogenesis is to place dermal papillae isolated from the hair follicle in contact with an overlying epidermis where they reprogram the epidermis to adopt a follicular fate. This approach, however, has not been successful using cultured human dermal papilla cells in human skin because the cells lose their ability to induce hair growth after expansion in vitro. In this paper, we demonstrate that by manipulating cell culture conditions to establish three-dimensional papilla spheroids, we restore dermal papilla inductivity. We also use several systems biology approaches to gain a comprehensive understanding of the molecular mechanisms that underlie this regenerative process.
But don't expect a bottle of magic hair growth gel in your pharmacy just yet. Talking to the New York Times, Christiano cautions that "at the moment [the team is] only getting quite a small hair." She added that this is just the first step to find a final cure to baldness in humans.
One of the challenges will be to make the hair grow more. She believes that the problem may lie in the activation of some of the genes that play a role in the development of hair. In the experiments they noticed that only a handful of these genes were activated.
In any case, there's reason to rejoice, current and future bald people of the world. The cure for your illness seems to be around the corner this time.