Plenty of bald or balding people wear hats for vanity or warmth reasons. But in the not too distant future, they might wear hats because it helps their hair to grow back.
At least that’s the dream of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who have developed a baldness-banishing electric patch that could help reverse the effects or balding in men when fitted into a custom-designed baseball cap. The millimeter-thin patch adheres to the scalp and then zaps it with very mild electric pulses generated using the body’s own kinetic energy.
“It is a device that automatically [converts random] head movements into regular electric pulses to stimulate hair follicles to grow hairs,” Professor Xudong Wang told Digital Trends. “It is a device called [a] nanogenerator, based on [the] piezoelectric or triboelectric effect, that converts displacements into electrical potential.”
So far, the researchers have demonstrated how the patch could be used to regrow hair in rats, both shaved rats and those that are hairless due to a genetic deficiency. In both cases, the electric pulses prompted hair beyond that which was achieved with minoxidil lotion and an inert saline solution. The rats grew hair more quickly and thickly while wearing the patch. Under a microscope, the researchers found that the patch appears to work by stimulating natural chemicals that trigger hair growth, including keratinocyte growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor.
The patch was then tested by Wang on his father, who found similar results. Prompted by this, the researchers have now designed a baseball cap that incorporates the patch. They are currently attempting to get it approved in order to carry out clinical trials.
“A hat will certainly be one convenient form,” Wang said. “Because our device is a wearable system, I think one ideal form is a wearable cap that can be fitted into any hat. People can [then] wear it with their favorable headwear and stimulate hair growth unnoticeably in their daily life.”
A paper describing the work, titled “Self-Activated Electrical Stimulation for Effective Hair Regeneration via a Wearable Omnidirectional Pulse Generator,” was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.
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