Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have integrated an anti-baldness device into a hat, powered by the body’s own movements.
Described in the journal ACS Nano, the technology uses electrical stimulation to reactivate dormant hair follicles, with gentle, low-frequency electric pulses encouraging the follicles back into action. This makes it suitable for early intervention in cases of pattern baldness, but ineffective where the skin has gone smooth and baldness has fully advanced.
“Electric stimulations can help many different body functions,” said Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison. “But before our work there was no really good solution for low-profile devices that provide gentle but effective stimulations.”
Wang’s background is in energy harvesting, having previously developed electric bandages that stimulate wound-healing as well as a weight-loss implant that uses gentle electricity to trick the stomach into feeling full. The anti-baldness hat is the latest in his line of self-powered devices. It uses an omnidirectional triboelectric generator to harvest energy from random body movements, which in turn powers the pulses that stimulate the dormant follicles.
During testing, higher hair follicle density and longer hair shaft length were observed on Sprague–Dawley rats when the device was employed compared to conventional medical treatments. Separate tests on genetically defective nude mice saw the device improve the secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor, increasing the number of hair follicles and promoting hair regeneration.
The researchers claim the electric pulses are extremely gentle and don’t penetrate any deeper than the very outermost layers of the scalp, and that they don’t appear to carry any unpleasant side effects. This could mark a potential advantage over some medical baldness treatments, which can induce side effects including sexual dysfunction, depression and anxiety.
“It’s a self-activated system, very simple and easy to use,” said Wang. “The energy is very low so it will cause minimal side effects…I think this will be a very practical solution to hair regeneration.”