A non-invasive and chemical-free hair loss solution could be on the way.
It’s a commonly known fact that by the age of thirty-five, two-thirds of men will experience some form of balding. That figure only increases as males age and hair thinning progressively increases.
Well now there could be a way to reverse hair loss and all it takes is an electronic hat which shocks the scalp into growing new hair.
Developed by Xudong Wang and his team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the technology has been trialled on hairless mice with promising results. The test subjects grew fur after the electronic patches were applied to them, leading researchers to believe that a cure to balding could be on its way.
If it is successful it will be a groundbreaking discovery since the current treatment for hair loss involves more drastic measures like minoxidil, finasteride pills or hair transplants. Minoxidil carries with it a host of side effects and doesn’t work for all men. Finasteride meanwhile can reduce sex drive and fertility. Hair transplants which are becoming more common are still painful and expensive.
The answer? Put special electronic patches into a baseball cap.
Comparison of mouse skin before (left) and after (right) using different treatments: pink rectangle indicates growth with patch, other rectangles reflect other hair loss treatments
With existing evidence that electronic pulses can restore hair growth, Wang and his team devised a way to execute these pulses without being hooked up to a machine or battery pack for numerous hours a day. Flexible wireless patches were created that stick onto the scalp but that’s not all – Wang built in a kinetic charger which generates electricity from the user’s body movements so that no wires or attachments are required. Think of it as a kinetic watch but for your head.
Getting a bit more technical, the 1mm-thick patches contain layers of differently-charged materials which produce charge when they contact and separate in a process called the triboelectric effect.
These flexible patches were then tested on rats who were able to harness the triboelectric effect whenever their movements caused the patches to bend.
More importantly Wang found that the gentle electric pulses stimulated hair growth in hairless mice faster than minoxidil and inert saline solution. In the nine days of testing, the subjects grew 2mm of fur under the patch. This was in comparison to 1mm of fur that grew on the skin area treated with minoxidil and saline solution. Hair density from the patches was also found to be three times greater, encouraged by the release of natural chemicals such as keratinocyte growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor.
As confident as Wang is, there are still some limitations to the technology which only works on men who are currently losing their hair or have recently become bald. This is because the skin stops generating new hair follicles after years of baldness. The hat also won’t work during sleep as it requires movement to be powered.
Wang, who admits that he’s tested the patch on his own father with positive results, is currently seeking approval for further clinical trials. He believes the technology will work since hairless mice are ideal models for male balding.