Q: I have heard that Dr. Jahoda was able to clone hair. Is that true? — M.T., Cincinnati, OH
A: Possibly the most interesting work related to cloning hair was done by Colon Jahoda in England over a decade ago. Dr. Jahoda’s work is significant because he identified an inducer cell — i.e. fibroblasts in the outer portion of the hair follicle (the outer root sheath) — that can stimulate the skin to produce new hair. It is well known that fibroblasts, unlike many other tissue cells, are relatively easy to culture.
Theoretically, a patient’s fibroblasts could be removed from the sheaths of just a few follicles and then cultured to produce thousands of follicles. These fibroblasts could then be injected back into the scalp to induce thousands of new hair follicles to grow.
In the study, fibroblasts from a man were injected into the forearm of genetically unrelated women. The cross-gender aspect of his experiment has received much publicity and is potentially of great importance to burn victims, but has little relevance to hair transplantation for male pattern baldness. Patients would probably benefit most from using their own cultured fibroblasts for the best match.
So far this important single study has not been reproduced.