Dr. Bernstein summarizes an article on hair cloning in The Plain Dealer:
An English based company called Intercytex has claimed some success in its research on hair cloning with its first testing in humans. This technique is similar to the one initially proposed by Dr. Colin Jahoda and published in 1999. (Download the article )
The idea is that certain cells (called fibroblasts) found at the bottom of hair follicles can be separated from the follicles after they have been removed from the scalp, and then be used to form new follicles.
The way this works is as follows: a few hair follicles at the permanent area from the back of the scalp (the area that does not bald) are removed. In a lab, the germinative cells at the base of the follicle are dissected off and placed in a Petri dish. They are then incubated in a special medium and allowed to multiply thousands of times.
These cultured cells are then injected into the balding area of the scalp where they induce complete hair follicles to form. In contrast to traditional hair transplants, where the doctor is limited by the patient’s finite donor supply and hair is literally just moved around (from the back to the front), in hair cloning, there will be an actual increase in the total number of hairs on a person’s head.
Initial testing involved seven male volunteers that were suffering from androgenetic alopecia (common baldness). After the process, five of them showed an increased amount of hair. Fortunately, there were no complications, such as skin inflammation or tissue rejection. However, the test area was small and volunteers only grew a little hair.
Towards the middle of next year, additional patients will be tested using a greater number of cloned cells, so that a larger area of the scalp could be covered. The researchers speculate that this new cloning technology may be on the market in as soon as five years.
The researchers speculate that in the distant future, traditional hair transplants may not be needed at all. Instead, as patients start to thin, they could come to the clinic on a regular basis for injections of their own cells to stimulate the growth of new follicles and stop the impending balding – a sort of hair maintenance.
Reference: The Plain Dealer, Tuesday, November 15, 2005. “Hope grows for bald baby boomers,” Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press.