A U.K biotechnology firm is developing a robot to grow hair follicle cells, meant for treating baldness. The firm, Intercytex has successfully tested a method of removing hair follicles from the back of the neck, and multiplying them to reimplant the cells on the head. Intercytex now plans to utilize a 1.85 million pounds grant from the government to automate the process of growing cells. Thus many people can actually benefit from this.
The method will be used to treat male pattern baldness and alopecia in women. Intercytex will be working alongside the Automation Partnership, the company which developed the robotic system for storing and growing the cells.
Inititally, the treatment was tested on seven men with male pattern baldness, five of whom grew hair. Now the treatment is being tested on 20 more men.
This is how it works. During a 30-minute operation, hair follicles are taken from the back of the neck, then grown in culture until they number in the thousands. They are then injected under the skin, where the hair needs to grow back.
Intercytex chief executive Nick Higgins said in male pattern baldness the area at the back of the neck was unaffected by the hormone.
“We take a very small sample of the dermal papilla cells and then grow them in a special medium until we get ten thousand fold. Then we take a very fine needle and we inject them under the skin and the idea is at each point of injection a new hair will grow.
“The robot does two things – the cell culture growth phase takes about three weeks and involves lots of steps but we can programme it to do all the steps, and it can do 200 samples at once.
“The clever bit is we don’t want to give the wrong person the wrong hair back.”
He added that they would also be testing the method in cases of alopecia but said it would be about three years before the treatment would be available to the general public.