Hair Cloning Nears Reality as Baldness Cure
Hair Multiplication Puts New Face on Hair Restoration
WebMD News Archive
Hair Restoration Today and Tomorrow continued...
The Holy Grail of hair restoration would be to figure out exactly how these
chemical signals work. A future drug might contain all the signals needed to
grow hair in bald areas of the head. But the complexity of the body's chemical
language means such a drug is decades from reality, Washenik says.
But it's already possible to seed bald areas of the head by transplanting
follicle from areas where there's still plenty of hair. This works pretty well
for men, who generally don't lose the hair on the back of the head. For women,
however, age-related hair
losshair loss often
affects the back of the head. That's why hair transplants tend to be much less successful for
And there are only so many hair follicles. Even successful hair transplants
don't grow as rich a crop of hair as most people would like.
Hair Cloning: What It Is -- and Isn't
The basic idea behind hair cloning is to harvest healthy follicle stem
cells. But instead of transplanting them right away, researchers have learned
how to make the stem cells or seeds multiply.
It's not cloning, which uses different techniques. New follicle stem cells
are grown in laboratory cultures. Then they are attached to tiny skin-cell scaffolds and implanted
into bald areas of the scalp.
"The idea is to take these cells from the bulb of the hair, grow them in
culture, and come back with an increased number of hair seeds you could inject
into the scalp," Washenik says. "You start with a small number of hairs and
come back with a larger number of hair seeds, and inject them into one area,
and just create brand-new hair follicles."
Moreover, researchers have discovered that some follicle cells do more than
regenerate. They give off chemical signals. Nearby follicle cells -- which have
shrunk during the agingaging process -- respond to these signals by
regenerating and once again making healthy hair. It works in lab mice. And,
Washenik says, it works in human skin cultures, too.
"So this three-to-four-years-away number is not fantasy," Washenik says. "It
is biotechnology research, and nature can always step in the way and
slow things down. But the concept of tissue-engineered hair growth to create a
new hair organ looks very real."