While 3D printing is responsible for numerous, important strides being made in nearly every industry, from medical to aerospace, you may not realize how many other sectors are getting in on the action as well—to include the beauty and cosmetics industry. From ornate fingernails painted in 3D print to the makeup printing pen, there’s certainly no loss for products or clever innovation. 3D printing hair is also one of the new focuses, with hairpieces being created as well as 3D printed hair transplants.
L’Oreal has announced recently that they are now delving more deeply into the idea of actually 3D printing the hair follicles themselves. The billion dollar hair loss industry is supported by many who cling to the idea that they can escape hair loss or baldness eventually—and generally with little luck. While many are happy to finally just shave it all off and proudly display a bald head as is the growing trend, countless others will try nearly anything to go back to the days of yore when they sported full locks. It’s pretty well-known that you might as well try applying snake oil to your pate.
As 3D technology continues to offer new innovations, however, especially with bioprinting, L’Oreal is partnering with French company Poietis, responsible for developing laser printing for cellular structures. While L’Oreal sees any results as being several years out, they are obviously optimistic, as well as hopeful for being involved in such an enormous breakthrough. As they begin research and development, these follicles could be used in testing, for new products.
“If we manage to bio-print a hair follicle we will enhance our knowledge of both hair biology and some of the mysteries of hair growth and loss,” said Jose Cotovio, a director at L’Oreal’s Research and Innovation division, in a recent interview. “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.”
“The next step is, will it be possible to implant? This is the holy grail.”
As they join a long list of researchers now heavily involved in the bioprinting process, Poietis definitely stands out as unique in what they are attempting to achieve. The process basically begins with mapping out where they want new cells to grow. Digitally, they determine this in creating a cellular structure, as well as projecting how the biomaterials will grow once implanted. Using a bio-ink created with the desired cells, printing occurs as a pulsing laser is bounced off of a mirror and then through a lens, eventually triggering a ribbon that causes the bio-ink to be applied at the rate of 10,000 micro-droplets per second. Once created, Poietis says that the tissue has to mature before follicles can actually start growing.
Already well into the practice of bioprinting, Poietis has previously created cartilage 1cm (0.4in) wide by 0.5mm (0.2in) thick, taking about ten minutes in production. They expect that growing hair follicles will take longer due to its complexity—and they also expect the obvious in this project as well: it will be challenging.
While L’Oreal and Poietis are realistic about the challenges, some of those involved with Alopecia UK are already concerned. As the charity works to support those suffering from hair loss as well as offering advice, they are of course encouraged to hear about the research, but are considering several issues at hand.
“It’s of the most complex objectives so far of all the bio-printing projects that we have created,” said chief executive Fabien Guillemot.
“…we would suggest it’s still very early days to be getting excited about what this potentially could mean for those with medical hair loss,” said spokeswoman Amy Johnson. “At this point it is unclear as to whether this technology could benefit those with all types of hair loss.”
Stating they will be continuing to watch the progress of this project with great interest, Johnson and others at Alopecia UK are concerned about one of the issues that often plagues the 3D printing industry overall: accessibility and affordability. While 3D printed hair follicles may offer great potential to many, and may actually become a reality soon, it is likely that this would not a magic pill available to the masses for quite some time. Do you think this could be what so many have been waiting for? Let’s discuss it further in the 3D Printed Hair Follicles forum thread over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Mo4ch News; BBC News]