Hair loss is a common phenomenon and a very emotional and distressing topic for some people. According to a recent study, 30 percent of men under the age of 30 suffer from early signs of baldness, and this rises to 80 percent for those in their 70s.

To tackle this problem, cosmetics company L’Oreal has teamed up with Poietis, a French bio-printing start-up. With their joint expertise, they aim to print living human hair follicles and thereby combat the root causes of hair loss.

A Huge Revolution with Bio-Printing

L’Oreal already uses 3D-printed skin within its product research process but with the pioneering technique of bio-printing they want to enter the growing field of regenerative medicine. Jose Cotovio, director at L’Oreal’s Research and Innovation division, says: “If we manage to bio-print hair follicles we will enhance our knowledge of both hair biology and some of the mysteries of hair growth and loss.” In his department around 4000 people work on bio-printing hair follicles that could be implanted in a patient’s head. Then, a biological tissue is developing, able to sprout new hair.

Bio-Printing a Hair Follicle Step by Step

For this, L’Oreal will make use of a laser-assisted bio-printing process developed by Poietis. The company has already used this technique to create cartilage and other viable types of cell lines. To grow hair follicles, a digital map allowing to determine where living cells and other tissue components should be placed has to be created. The collected data then serve as a basis for the printing equipment. Every time when the laser hits a relevant section tiny droplets made out of cell-based biological ink are placed layer by layer into their corresponding position. The laser can lay down up to 10.000 tiny droplets every second. After the printing process, the resulting organic tissue needs three-weeks of maturation so that the hair follicles can grow.

Less Painful with Bio-Printing

In comparison to current hair transplant processes, which are time-consuming and painful, the new bio-printing process is expected to be more pleasant and allows the hair to continue growing in a natural way. However, the innovative technology is still at an early stage and a lot of research and testing has to be done before the process can become mainstream.

What do you think of bio-printing? In which other sectors can this technology also be used?