Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have invented a new hair-growth-stimulating solution that may one day see baldness reversed by simply wearing a hat. The novel technology is also noninvasive and low-cost.
A practical solution
"I think this will be a very practical solution to hair regeneration," said Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison.
The hair-growth technology stimulates the skin with gentle, low-frequency electric pulses. These pulses coax dormant follicles to reactivate hair production.
The devices essentially reactivate hair-producing structures that have gone dormant. That means they are fit for people in the early stages of pattern baldness, but not for people who have been bald several years.
Perhaps the best part of the technology is that it is powered by the movement of the wearer. This means no bulky battery pack or complicated electronics are required.
The devices are called nanogenerators and they passively gather energy from day-to-day movements. They then transmit low-frequency pulses of electricity to the skin that causes dormant follicles to reawaken.
"Electric stimulations can help many different body functions," said Wang. "But before our work there was no really good solution for low-profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimulations."
No side effects
Unlike other baldness treatments that carry risks of sexual dysfunction, depression and anxiety, these devices don't seem to have any side effects. This is because the electric pulses don't penetrate any deeper than the very outermost layers of the scalp.
However, mice tests have shown that the devices did stimulate hair growth just as effectively as two different compounds found in baldness medicines.
"It's a self-activated system, very simple and easy to use," said Wang. "The energy is very low so it will cause minimal side effects."
Indeed, it is so simple and low profile that it could be discreetly worn underneath the crown of a baseball cap. One day the treatment may be delivered via a regular-looking hat.
That day may be sooner than thought as the researchers hope to move forward with human testing soon. A description of the technology is published in the journal ACS Nano.