Singapore, July 19, 2013 – Hair loss is a common disorder that affects many men and women due to aging or medical conditions. Current FDA-approved drugs can minimize further hair loss but are unable to regrow new hair. The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) has recently engineered a new hair follicle model that could help discover new drugs for hair regeneration1.
IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying said, “We have applied our cell and tissue engineering expertise to create a hair follicle-like structure that is very similar to the native hair follicle. This model allows us to better understand the mechanisms that control the development and growth of hair follicles. We hope that our invention would lead to novel ways to treat hair loss, which affects millions of people worldwide.”
The hair follicle is a regenerating organ that produces a new hair shaft during each growth cycle. This hair growth cycle is controlled by interactions between two main cell types: epithelial cells, which surround the hair shaft, and dermal papilla cells, which are at the base of the follicle bulb. A three-dimensional (3D) hair follicle model would therefore be useful for studying these cell interactions to identify new treatments for male and female pattern baldness.
By applying a patented microfiber fabrication technology2 for engineering different cell types in three dimensions, the IBN research team was able to fabricate a 3D hair follicle model that mimics the size and cell arrangement of a real hair follicle. They achieved this by combining two types of hair cells, namely, dermal papilla cells and keratinocytes, an epithelial cell type, within a translucent fibrous matrix.
IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist Dr Andrew Wan elaborated, “Measuring the diameter of a strand of hair, our hair follicle-like structure exhibits similar cell behavior as real hair follicles. In our model, the hair cells are implanted into very fine and transparent fibers, which can be easily examined under the microscope unlike conventional models, making them ideal for drug testing applications.”
The IBN researchers found that the cells in their hair follicle-like structures switched on genes that are usually active during the hair growth stage, and when transplanted into mice, they could grow further into natural-looking hair structures.
If commercialized, this technology could be used by pharmaceutical companies in the drug discovery stage to screen potential promoters or inhibitors of hair formation. Consumer care companies would also be interested in this technology platform as it would allow them to screen the effectiveness of active ingredients in personal care products for hair growth.
Images Available on Request: (See attached files)
The IBN research team (from left): Dr Chan Du, Dr Ashley Lim, Dr Andrew Wan,
Dr Meng Fatt Leong, Prof Jackie Ying, Dr Shujun Gao and Dr Hongfang Lu.
Dr Meng Fatt Leong, Prof Jackie Ying, Dr Shujun Gao and Dr Hongfang Lu.
A microscopic image of the IBN hair follicle-like structures growing within a fibrous matrix.
1. T. C. Lim, M. F. Leong, H. Lu, D. Chan, S. J. Gao, A. C. A. Wan and J. Y. Ying, “Follicular Dermal Papilla Structures by Organization of Epithelial and Mesenchymal Cells in Interfacial Polyelectrolyte Complex Fibers,” Biomaterials, (2013) DOI: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.05.068.
2. A. C. A. Wan, M. F. Leong, J. K. C. Toh, Y. Zheng and J. Y. Ying, “Multicomponent Fibers by Multi-Interfacial Polyelectrolyte Complexation,” Advanced Healthcare Materials, 1 (2012) 101-105.
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About the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology
The Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) was established in 2003 and is spearheaded by its Executive Director, Professor Jackie Yi-Ru Ying.
Professor Ying was a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1992 - 2005). She was recognized as one of “One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era” by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2008 for her groundbreaking work on nanostructured systems, nanoporous materials and host matrices for quantum dots and wires.
Under her direction, IBN conducts research at the cutting-edge of bioengineering and nanotechnology. Its programs are geared towards linking multiple disciplines across engineering, science and medicine to produce research breakthroughs that will improve healthcare and our quality of life.
IBN’s research activities are focused in the following areas:
- Nanomedicine, where functionalized polymers, hydrogels and biologics are developed as therapeutics and carriers for the controlled release and targeted delivery of therapeutics to diseased cells and organs.
- Cell and Tissue Engineering, where biomimicking materials, stem cell technology, microfluidic systems and bioimaging tools are combined to develop novel approaches to regenerative medicine and artificial organs.
- Biodevices and Diagnostics, which involve nanotechnology and microfabricated platforms for high-throughput biomarker and drug screening, automated biologics synthesis, and rapid disease diagnosis.
- Green Chemistry and Energy, which encompass the green synthesis of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, catalytic conversion of biomass, utilization of carbon dioxide, and new nanocomposite materials for energy applications.
IBN's innovative research is aimed at creating new knowledge and intellectual properties in the emerging fields of bioengineering and nanotechnology to attract top-notch researchers and business partners to Singapore. Since 2003, IBN researchers have published over 880 papers in leading journals.
IBN also plays an active role in technology transfer and spinning off companies, linking the research institute and industrial partners to other global institutions. The Institute has a portfolio of over 620 patents/patent applications, and welcomes industrial and clinical partners to collaborate on and co-develop its technologies. IBN has successfully commercialized 50 patents/patent applications, and has established 7 spin-off companies.
IBN's current staff and students strength stands at over 155 scientists, engineers and medical doctors. With its multinational and multidisciplinary research staff, the institute is geared towards generating new biomaterials, devices, systems and processes to boost Singapore’s economy in the medical technology, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, consumer products and clean technology sectors.
IBN is also committed to nurturing young talents. Besides the training of PhD students, IBN has a Youth Research Program (YRP) for students and teachers from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Since its inception in October 2003, YRP has reached out to more than 64,500 students and teachers from 290 local and overseas schools and institutions. Over 1,770 students and teachers have completed research attachments at IBN for a minimum period of four weeks.
For more information, visit www.ibn.a-star.edu.sg.
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