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The Sweet Hair After

Future Hair-Loss Treatments Promise What's not Hair Today will Be Hair Tomorrow.

The Future for Hair-Loss Treatments

"There's many a man has more hair than wit."

-William Shakespeare

The Holy Grail of hair-loss treatment is getting shutdown follicles to regenerate. That's what Cotsarelis's lab is working on. Already they've made a major breakthrough: They've learned how to manipulate these stem cells in the test tube.

It's not the only lab working in this area.

"Others are taking hair follicles out of human scalp and growing them with dermal papilla cells," Cotsarelis says. "If they grow in culture, you might be able to recombine them with skin cells and form new follicles. This would let you expand the number of follicles you get for a hair transplant. This may not be that far off -- five to 10 years, maybe. There's very good evidence you will be able to do that."

The company that's leading this research is Aderans -- the huge wig manufacturer based in Japan.

"We are off and running," Tom Barrows, PhD, director of product development at Aderans Research Institute Inc., Atlanta, tells WebMD.

"Hair cloning is something this has been called, but we are not real keen on the word cloning. We are not creating a whole new organism, but it is a duplication process. ... We are taking follicular stem cells -- cells that have capacity of creating new follicle -- and packaging them into follicle-inducing implants. "

A gene called sonic hedgehog is also making headway. A company called Curis already is trying to tame sonic hedgehog for hair growth.

"Sonic hedgehog can convert resting hair into growing hair," Cotsarelis says. "We really don't know it's full role, but if it controls follicle size and growth, it could be something a treatment might be based around."

Sonic hedgehog is just one of several key genes scientists are tinkering with in labs.

If this all sounds futuristic, it is. But there are good reasons this kind of technology will move forward. Today, Americans spend $800 million on hair restoration surgery. And they'd spend a lot more if the surgery got faster and better.

"If it can be done, it will be done," Barrows says.

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Reviewed on September 29, 2003

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