A new hair-growth-stimulating device has been developed by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The prototype is self-powered, generating electricity from everyday body movements, and is unobtrusive enough to hypothetically fit under a baseball cap.

Electrotrichogenesis (ETG) is not a particularly new method to combat baldness. The idea is that mild electrical stimulation can enhance hair growth factors in dermal cells. However, one thing holding this method back from any wide-scale implementation has been the bulky technology and battery capacity restrictions.

“Electric stimulations can help many different body functions,” says Xudong Wang, an engineer working on the new research from UW-Madison. “But before our work there was no really good solution for low-profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimulations.”

Wang had previously worked on self-powered devices such as electric bandages and weight-loss implants. These devices are all based around nanogenerators able to consistently generate low levels of electricity from body movements. In this current study the devices have also been designed to transmit low-frequency energy pulses.

“It’s a self-activated system, very simple and easy to use,” says Wang. “The energy is very low so it will cause minimal side effects.”

The current prototype device is shown on the right

The current prototype device is shown on the right

UW-Madison / Alex Holloway

So far the proof-of-concept study has been shown to be effective in mouse models, stimulating hair growth at levels equal to two common baldness medications. The next step will be to verify the effect of the device in mouse models with human reconstructed skin in order to confirm this particular system works with human cells.

Importantly, the researchers do note the ultimate outcome for the technology would be more as a preventative intervention at the earliest stage of hair loss since the technology cannot cause new hair follicles to sprout in smooth, already bald skin. From this perspective the big innovation here is the efficiency of the design, creating a small, low-profile device that the researchers demonstrate could be easily incorporated into a hat or baseball cap.

A commercial outcome may be a few years off, but the researchers have patented the technology and are planning human trials soon.

“I think this will be a very practical solution to hair regeneration,” says Wang.

The research was published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison