The government-backed research institute Riken and regenerative medicine firm Organ Technologies Inc. said Monday they will soon start animal testing of a newly developed method to culture hair follicles for transplantation.

Some 5,000 to 10,000 strands of hair can be grown from a small amount of follicle tissue created using three types of stem cells found in the scalp, according to Riken's Takashi Tsuji who leads the study.

(Hair follicle tissue)
[Photo courtesy of Riken]

His team has also developed equipment with Kyocera Corp. to stably culture the tissues.

About 25 million people in Japan suffer from hair loss caused by such reasons as medication side effects and male pattern baldness.

The method could be an alternative to such currently available treatments as hair loss medicines and hair transplants.

The team aims for commercialization of the technique as soon as 2020.