It might be possible to use gene therapy to treat baldness, researchers say.
A team at the University of Pennsylvania said they had managed to get growing human hairs to take up genetic material — and said it had been easier than they expected.
So far they have only been able to turn hair blue. But they say the idea could be turned to growing hair someday.
to worry about transcribing errors, and he liked the speed with which he could assist a larger clientele. He was even reconfiguring his two popular Web sites so customers could periodically access their files.
The idea behind gene therapy is to use genetic material to replace a faulty gene, or to boost the efforts of genes. It is being tested in a range of
conditions from cancer to heart failure.
Cotsarelis’s team thought they would try it for a range of hair loss, including alopecia areata, caused when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.
“It often occurs in children and can be psychologically devastating,” Cotsarelis, who reported his teams’ findings to a meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy, said.
They have not tried to treat baldness just yet. Instead, they used a gene coding for an enzyme known as beta galactosidase, which turns the hair
They grafted pieces of human scalp to specially bred mice.
To deliver the genes they used liposomes, which are little spheres of fat-like substance which are easily absorbed into cells. And they used a simpler form of the genetic material called plasmid DNA.
“When we apply the preparation to the follicles, the liposomes bind to the
cell membrane and the DNA is released into the cell, quickly finding its
way to the nucleus,” Cotsarelis said.
The next step would be to try this targeting a gene that affects hair growth. But there is a problem; scientists do not yet know which genes these are. However, they say the idea holds promise.
“This is an example of a very clever use of a vector to deliver a protein, if
it works,” said Dr. James Wilson, president of the American Society of Gene Therapy.