Hair Cloning (Culturing)

What is it?

Hair culturing involves removing donor hairs from the back of the scalp, isolating the stem cells from which the follicle grows, and culturing (growing) them in a lab. Then the cells are re-implanted into the balding area of scalp.

Because many stem cells are being grown in the lab from a few hairs, hair culturing allows you to grow many times the number of hairs removed.  This will end the limits of how much hair can be transplanted due to the limited amount of hair that can be extracted from the back of the scalp during normal hair transplants.

 

Status:

Several doctors are developing this technique:

  • A study is underway in Canada at the University of Toronto led by Dr. Walter Unger to develop hair culturing.
  • A Dr. Gho in the Netherlands has been granted a European Patent as of 9/14/98 and is conducting a study on actual patients.  The doctor completed his study and developed a treatment known as HaarStemcel Transplantie, which is available only in the Netherlands.
  • Dr. Colin Jahoda of the UK is researching the process.
  • Dr. Jerry Cooley previously performed research on the procedure at Johns Hopkins University

 

Availability:

Available now in the Netherlands, time to reach the rest of the world could be as little as 5 and as many as 20 years.

 

Advantages:

  • Unlimited or nearly unlimited hairs to implant/transplant.
  • Less scarring where hair is removed since less needs to be taken.
  • Stem cells may be implanted by syringe which may mean less trauma to the implant area than traditional transplants.
  • Less invasive procedure may require less anesthetic and involve less pain to the patient.
  • Recent research indicates it may be possible to take donor cells from other individuals.

 

Drawbacks:

  • Costs may be dramatically higher than traditional transplants, especially when the technique first becomes widely available
  • Cultured cells often have shorter lifespans than normal cells and it is possible that the hairs will not last a lifetime (and since the procedure is so new there will be no way to tell until it has been available a while).
  • Implanting stem cells in this fashion can carry a risk of tumor or cyst formation – it is unclear at this point whether this may be a stumbling block to development.