Few things on earth cause fear in people's hearts deeper than hair loss. But reversing baldness one day can be as easy as wearing a hat, thanks to the non-invasive, inexpensive hair growth-stimulating technology developed by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"I think this will be a very practical solution for hair regeneration," says Xudong Wang, professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison.
Wang and colleagues publish a description of the technology in ACS Nano Based on devices that harness the energy of daily body movement, hair growth technology stimulates the skin with gentle, low-frequency electrical impulses that ignite sleeping follicles to reactivate hair production.
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The devices do not cause the hair follicles to reappear in smooth skin, instead they re-activate sleep-producing hair structures, meaning that they can be used as a intervention for people in the early stages of baldness of the model, but they will not give cascading clothes to someone who has been bald as a billiard ball for several years.
Because devices are powered by user movement, they do not require a volumetric battery or sophisticated electronics. In fact, they are so low profile that they could be worn discreetly under the crown of everyday baseball cap.
Wang is a global expert in the design and creation of energy collection devices. It has pioneering electrical dressings that stimulate wound healing and a slimming implant that uses gentle electricity to lure your stomach to feel complete.
Hair growth technology is based on a similar assumption: Small devices called nanogenerators passively collect energy from daily movements and then transmit low frequency pulses of electricity to the skin. This gentle electrical stimulation causes the sleeping follicles to "wake up".
"Electrical stimulation can help many different functions of the body," says Wang. "But before our work there was no really good solution for low profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimuli."
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Because electrical impulses are incredibly gentle and do not penetrate deeper than the outermost layers of the scalp, the devices do not seem to cause any unpleasant side effects. This is a noticeable advantage over other baldness treatments, such as Propecia, which carries the risks of sexual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety.
Moreover, in side tests of mice without hair, the devices stimulated hair growth just as effectively as two different compounds found in bald medication.
"It's a self-activated system, very simple and easy to use," says Wang. "Energy is very low, so it will have minimal side effects."
Reprinted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
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