Hair Replacement: The Next Generation

Coming soon to a scalp near you?

From the WebMD Archives


The Evolution Continues

"Hair transplantations have continued to evolve into smaller and smaller grafts and the next step will be to add a cell-based transplant where you can inject hair seeds into the balding area that can grow into a brand new follicle," predicts Ken Washenik, MD, PhD, the medical director of Bosley, a hair restoration practice.

In essence, this is cloning.

"Within five years, we should be able to augment and add this to the follicle-based transplant," says Washenik, who is also a researcher at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

"Cloning has certainly become possible in other areas, so it is very possible that there will come a time when hair can be cloned," Orentreich says.

"If we can get cloning to work that would give us the best ability to restore hair," says New York City dermatologist Bruce Katz, MD, director of the Juva Skin and Laser Center. He says it would deliver the best results, physically and cosmetically.

The Magic Bullet?

A magic elixir to treat baldness "may not be that far off if we extrapolate from existing drugs like Propecia and keep going," Orentreich says. "I am pretty confident that with further work, a medication will come along that will be so good and safe that we will be doing fewer transplants."

Finasteride (Propecia) was developed to treat an enlarged prostate and later was found to be effective in hair loss in men. It is prescribed under the names Propecia or Proscar.

"It's OK, but not so good that all men who take the drug will grow their hair back, but it's excellent if you start to use it when you first notice thinning hair," Orentreich says.

Propecia works by lowering the level of a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the hair follicle, a male hormone linked to hair loss. Like Propecia, another drug Avodart, was also designed to treat enlargement of the prostate by blocking DHT and may help treat hair loss.

"Sooner or later, there will be a fabulous drug which blocks DHT that will be able to prevent hair loss and we will see a much greater number of men grow their hair back," Orentreich predicts.