Cosmetics brand L’Oreal has partnered with French bio-printing company Poietis to look into 3D printing hair follicles.
Already using 3D printed skin in its product research, L’Oreal said it hoped by 3D printing follicles it could “enhance our knowledge of both hair biology and some of the mysteries of hair growth and loss.”
Speaking to the BBC, Jose Cotovio, a director at L’Oreal’s Research and Innovation division, revealed the follicles would initially be used to test new products.
“Hair loss is very emotional for some people and very distressing - if we succeed in identifying some ingredients that can fight this it will be a huge revolution,” said Cotovio.
“The next step is, will it be possible to implant? This is the holy grail.”
Poietis chief executive, Fabien Guillemot, added that adapting its printing process - which involves bouncing a laser off a mirror and through a lens to create a ribbon containing cell-based ‘bio ink’ - to create hair follicles would be challenging.
“It’s of the most complex objectives so far of all the bio-printing projects that we have created,” he said.
However, one hair loss charity, Alopecia UK, said it was too early “to be getting too excited” by the research.
“It’s encouraging to know that companies such as L’Oreal are investing in technology that may help those with hair loss in the future,” said spokeswoman Amy Johnson, adding that - at present - it’s “unclear as to whether this technology could benefit those with all types of hair loss.”
“Also, if this new technology did lead to a treatment option, given the high costs of existing hair transplant procedures, how many people will be able to realistically afford any new technological advances that may become available?,” she said, adding that as with all research and development into hair loss the charity was watching with “great interest”.