With the hair loss industry worth billions of dollars and new treatments appearing on the market regularly, it can sometimes feel like you’re throwing good money after bad as you try to ascertain the method that works for you.
But now scientists have discovered a way to test whether your hair loss treatment is really working. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the USA has developed a device that can test the electrical activity of hair follicles.
What is this device and how does it work?
The scientists behind the device based their ideas on the finding that healthy hair follicles produce a steady magnetic field when lightly pressed. This magnetic field can be measured using a device known as a magnetoencephalogram, or MEG.
The team from MGH have created a helmet-shaped MEG that can measure the activity of hair follicles across the scalp, allowing them to create a “map” of the patient’s scalp.
What does that have to do with the effectiveness of my hair loss treatment?
In a recent study, the MGH researchers used the MEG device to investigate follicular activity on the scalps of 15 participants – two of whom suffered from alopecia.
The maps produced for those participants with alopecia showed no electrical signals at all, whilst all other participants’ maps showed varying degrees of electrical activity.
This suggests that hair follicles that have completely died stop producing a magnetic field, and perhaps that the magnetic field of a follicle is stronger depending on its health – meaning that the helmet could be used to determine whether a hair loss treatment is having any impact on the health of the follicles.
Senior author of the study, David Cohen PhD, who invented MEG and has been a leader in the field of biomagnetism for more than 50 years, said:
“What we have here is a quantitative way to see the activity of hair follicles. As far as we can tell, this is the first time the electrical activity has been measured from the follicles themselves.”
We don’t yet know if or when this device will become available for general use, but it certainly opens the way to tighten up the hair loss industry, so that only the treatments that really work can make it.