Baldness in men may be partly due to the fact that men also have greater levels of male sex hormone-binding globulin, a blood-binding protein essential for the transport of testosterone. While it’s completely a part of our natural cycle, it’s a great concern among men because it’s irreversible if inherited.

Now, engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised a technology that can stimulate hair growth. It has also been affirmed that the technique is noninvasive and significantly cheaper than hair transplant. However, the team emphasizes that the method wouldn’t work as effectively on someone who has gone completely bald for several years. Instead it is meant to used as an intervention for people who are just experiencing early stages of pattern baldness.  

Analogous to devices that are powered by our bodily movement, this hair-growth technology induces the scalp with gentle, low-frequency pulses of electricity, which triggers reactivation of dormant follicles to start producing hair again. It is important to note that the devices do not make the follicles to shoot anew in smooth skin. Instead they bring dormant hair-producing structures to active state.

Another advantage of having these devices is that they are not at all bulky, and could be unobtrusively fitted underneath the crown of a baseball cap.

Xudong Wang (left) and a colleague testing out the device that zaps the scalp to stimulate dormant hair follicles and regrow hair. [Credit: UW-Madison]

Xudong Wang, who is a professor of materials science and engineering at UW–Madison, assuredly explained that the devices would be a concrete approach to hair regeneration. His dexterity with designing and developing energy-harvesting devices has inspired him to pioneer other technologies such as the one that stimulates wound-healing and a weight-loss implant that tricks the stomach into feeling full.

The hair-growth technology, too, works on a similar premise. The device is chock-full of nanogenerators that consistently generate their energy from day-to-day movements, and then transmit mild electric pulses to the skin causing dormant follicles to “wake up.”

“Electric stimulations can help many different body functions,” Wang says. “But before our work there was no really good solution for low-profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimulations.”

Low frequency electric pulses have been shown to help stimulate body functions such as in – breathing, regulating body temperature, strengthening the immune system and even the development and maintenance of blood capillaries. That too, without inflicting any unpleasant side effects.

The new hair-growth technology was tailored to work in a similar, noninvasive fashion. So far the proof-of-concept study has been performed on hairless mouse models, and it stimulated hair growth just as good as compounds found in baldness treatment medicines.

Researchers are expecting to move forward with their findings by setting up human trials soon. Right now, the concept has been patented with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison / Self-Activated Electrical Stimulation for Effective Hair Regeneration via a Wearable Omnidirectional Pulse Generator (ACS Nano)

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