Hair loss is a problem that has plagued men and women from all over the world, for centuries and continues to do so. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why, globally, there are so many studies and researches being conducted about the same. This article will look at some of the newest techniques that are coming to the forefront in the world of helping people with hair loss.
Recent studies has shown that stem cells can play a crucial role in stimulating hair growth and platelet rich plasma or PRP therapy, wherein platelets are harvesting from your own blood and injected into the body, is just one part of the process.
Stem cells might be tiny, but are extremely powerful and have the ability to divide and transform into a variety of other cells. All cells in our body are programmed to be born and then die eventually, however, stem cells act as the natural healers that work from within the body. This is why stem cells can help with the repair and rejuvenation of the body, even in adults.
Mesenchymal stem cells are quite potent and can be differentiated into numerous other cell types including fat cells, cartilage and bone cells. The papilla of the hair follicle is mainly made of connective tissue as well as a capillary loop and this is where mesenchymal stem cells come into play. The MS cells can help with the repair and regeneration of the hair follicle papilla.
Still in the initial stages of research, hair cloning holds a lot of scope for the future and might be the one way ticket out of baldness. As of now, the ongoing research is about how new hair can be grown outside the body, using tissue culture.
Studies have shown that in cases where there is complete baldness, there are no follicles on the scalp, which means that there is no scope for regeneration. However, recent studies have shown that there is a presence of follicles, because there is a presence of stem cells on the scalp too.
The basic tenet behind hair cloning is that since there are stem cells in the scalp, these can be extracted and then used in areas, where there is no hair growth or balding has occurred. The process has to be completed mostly out of the body, because the multiplication of the stem cells has to be manually and then the same are injected into the scalp, allowing for the generation of new hair.
Robotics has taken over in several fields and hair transplantation and restoration is one where it is slowly making its presence felt. There are numerous robotic devices, which are helping doctors complete transplant and restoration processes easier and more precise. These devices allow for better removal of donor grafts and certainly reduce the time spent on harvesting the same.
Most importantly, the robots will take a major part of the pressure away from the surgeon, allowing them to offer near perfection in the complete procedure.
For many men all over the world, the biggest problem is when there forehead starts becoming larger, which literally means that they are losing more hair than they would like. It is for such men, and in certain cases women as well, that procedures such as hairline lowering or advancement comes into play.
Very simply put, with hairline advancement procedure, you will be able to shrink your forehead and give a visual impression of having a lot more hair than might be actually present. However, there are several variables that have to be kept in mind, including scalp laxity and hairline height.
The surgeon will demarcate the new hairline and ensure that it looks natural. The incisions are made carefully and in a manner that when the new hair grows in, it will cover the scars. For the procedure, the scalp is separated from the skull and pulled back almost till the back of the neck. The scalp is then pulled forward and sutured in place.
This is one of the newer procedures in town and is used to reduce the expanse of the area that is bald. The process is done by putting a tissue expander, right beneath the skin. Over a period of time, when the balloon starts to expand, so does the skin of the scalp. This allows the scalp to become a little loose, and the balloon is removed. After this, the excess skin on the scalp is removed, leading to an obvious reduction of the bald area.
The most suitable candidates for this procedure would be those with the need for a drastic hairline improvement. This procedure is being used for people who have had altered hairlines, because of trauma suffered during accidents or fires.
When Dolly the sheep first came into the world in mid-1996, it actually opened up a world of opportunities. With cloning becoming a reality, there was the chance that a greater number of people would benefit, in a variety of ways. Today, cloning has entered and revolutionised the world of hair restoration too. However, in order to understand how cloning has changed the world of hair restoration, it is important to understand what hair cloning actually is.
Hair cloning is actually emerging as a very promising treatment for genetic hair loss or androgenetic alopecia. Several doctors and researchers are actually trying to use this method to bid hair loss farewell. The process entails using a sample of the person’s own hair follicle cells, which are still in the germinative stage. These cells are then multiplied outside the body, and then implanted back into the scalp. Since these new hairs have been created from germinative hair follicles, they should usually lead to the growth of permanent hair. However at this time of writing of the article, all these things are primarily limited to the experimental stage only and has not been applied to clinical situation.
For better understanding, it is imperative to know the difference between hair cloning and hair multiplication.
The models for hair cloning:
The very first hurdle that came across the scientists working in this field was that hair follicles are actually very complex entities and since they are not whole organisms, their growing without support is difficult. However, Dr. Amanda Reynolds and Dr. Colin Jahoda in collaboration with Dr. Christiano of Columbia University found a way out.
Their studies showed that the cells right beneath the dermal sheath could be sequestered from the body of one person and then injected into the skin of another person. The process could actually promote the growth of new hair in the person, into whose scalp the cells have been injected into. The cells create an interaction in the area, which allows the stimulation of new hair follicles. Even though this might not be considered by many as a cloning process, it can certainly provide a possibility of hair restoration.
Yet another interesting facet of this experiment conducted by Reynolds, Jahoda and Christiano was the procedure was not gender specific – as in cells harvested from a male donor could be received by a female candidate or vice versa. As long as there were no obvious rejection related issues, this started to look like a more plausible solution to hair loss. As a matter of fact, repeat injections in clinical studies showed that there were minimal issues of rejection. This also proved that dermal sheath cells perhaps had some sort of immunity, which ensured that there would be total acceptance.
There were also observations that the condition of the recipient skin can have an effect on the way the hair eventually looks. This meant that even though cells were taken from another person, the new hair would look like the original hair of the person receiving the cell implants.
As of now, there are four processes that are being researched and studied:
- Implant only dermal papillae cells, wherein the dermal papillae cells are implanted into the dermis. The process allows the overlying skin cells to convert into hair follicles. This process is also referred to as follicular neo-genesis as there has been evidence of new hair emerging on a bald skull.
- Implant the cloned dermal papillae cells right next to the miniaturized follicles as the dermal papillae cells can induce the keratinocytes to grow into new hair. Since the existing follicles already have a structure, the new hair that will grow will look very natural.
- Implant the dermal papillae cells with the Keratinocytes, which have been cultured in tandem, allowing for the initiation of hair formation. These ‘cultured hair’ are placed on the scalp, offering better directional control of the hair placement.
- Implant the cells using a collagen matrix or even other synthetic materials, since the matrix will behave like a scaffold, offering the cells a chance to form the actual follicle.
While all these methods are being tried and tested, they are still awaiting approval from all important agencies such as FDA. In addition, there are also several stages of clinical testing that need to be completed.
What the future looks like:
Even though the future does look bright, there is still a lot that needs to be done. For starters, the dermal sheath cells have to become easier to locate, because they are not that easy to find. More importantly, there is no saying that these cells will produce the best hair.
The actual process of culturing these cells, outside of the body, is yet another task which has to be done carefully. If the environment is not right, there is no way the cultures will thrive. The cell matrix would also be an important aspect, because these would be needed to keep the alignment in order. Finally, the injection of the cultured cells has to be done in time and with care to ensure proper results.
There is no real guarantee that the cells that have been injected will produce hair that grows in the same direction as the natural hair or that they will have the same colour and texture. There is also no saying whether the new hair that grows will shed and if the shed hair will actually grow back.
This is why, at present, it would be a good idea to opt for a follicular unit extraction or transplant process as these would give much more natural looking results.
The concept of cloning has been around for a long time and when the very first cloned sheep Dolly survived successfully, the cheer and celebration was worldwide. The same method then progressed to other domains as well and today, there are major developments in the field of hair cloning.
The first and the most obvious question would be what is hair cloning? Hair cloning is a treatment in which the hair follicles from a person’s head are harvested and these are then multiplied, in a controlled environment, outside the body. Once the follicles have germinated properly, they are re-implanted into the scalp, and in most cases, these hair follicles grow to full length.
However, there are a lot of people who confuse the terms hair cloning and hair multiplication. Hair cloning is a term that is used to describe the spectrum of processes, in which hair growth is manipulated outside the body. Here is how hair multiplication differs from hair cloning.
The donor hair follicles are harvested from the scalp and then influenced in a controlled environment. This is done to increase the amount of hair present, and then the entire set of hair is re-implanted on the scalp. In order to complete this process, the hair follicles can either be cut or obtained via a transection or by plucking. The intent is that the follicles are able to regenerate on their own and hence lead to thicker and more abundant hair.
Hair multiplication using hair that has been plucked is favoured because this is perhaps the easiest way to obtain the germinative cells, without any invasive surgical methods being employed. In addition, the hair shaft of these plucked hair have a scaffold that is pre-prepared and it becomes much easier to align the cells. However, there is only one drawback – there are normally lesser cells than required, when the hair is obtained via plucking.
There have been studies and tests, wherein, hair has been taken from the beard and then implanted on the scalp, where there is balding. The implanted hair should ideally be able to regenerate new hair follicles, hence leading to better hair growth, mainly because the stem cells are still attached to the follicle.
The most recent studies have shown that if an extra-cellular matrix (ECM) is added, the process of hair growth could be improved and the hair that had been plucked would have a greater chance of survival. The problem here is that with the ECM method, there are never enough hair with the adequate germinative cells, which means that out of all the hair that have been plucked, only a few make the cut!
Clinical trials and studies are being conducted every single and hopefully, in the days to come, hair cloning will become a sought after process, just like FUE and FUT are today!
The domain of hair transplant and cloning is truly dynamic and there are constant researches and studies being conducted. As a matter of fact, a recent study conducted by Dr. Claire Higgins and Dr. Colin Jahoda has delved deep into the basic tenets of hair cloning and what the challenges in this path are. The article has been published in Hair Transplant Forum International and discusses the focal points that are causing hindrances.
In the article, Jahoda and Higgins have described at length, how dermal papillae of rats tend to organise themselves and create new follicles. This happens when they are injected or hair follicles are grafted into the skin. However, this is not something that has been visible in human dermal papilla. Instead of regenerating new hair follicles, they simply dissipate into the skin and act as a healing mechanism for wounds.
However, in light of what Jahoda and Higgins have published, hair follicle neogenesis might be the way to the future. With three dimensional culturing of dermal papillae, inducing the neogenesis of hair follicles seems possible. The same method has also made it possible to improve on the communication between cells, something that is crucial for proper follicle growth.
Even though there has been a lot of progress in terms of improving the communicative links between the dermal cells, there are still a lot of hurdles that stand in the way of actually cloning human hair. For instance, the quality of the hair that has been grown using the neogenesis technique is not up to the mark. The hair that was cultivated in this manner was either too short or grew in a non-uniformed direction.
However, this has certainly laid the ground work for possible success in the days to come.
Every day, we see several people, who have lost their self-esteem and confidence, because of their hair loss and balding. However, with so many new methods being innovated each day and numerous medicines being discovered, there is always hope.
In a recent presentation, Kenneth J. Washenik, MD, PhD, the clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center informed the world about quite a few new developments. He was making this presentation at the annual conference of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Some of the medical advances and treatments that he spoke about, included:
A. Finasteride & Minoxidil have been given the nod by FDA and these have become the first line of therapy for treating any hair loss in men. In women, there are also certain other hormonal treatments which have shown great results.
B. Latisse: Latisse, started out as a drug used for growing eyelashes, but now is being seen as a possible option for hair regrowth as well. This FDA approved medicine has been used to regrow eyelashes, but the medication is not strong enough, as of now, to penetrate the scalp. However, studies are underway, and with an improved version, there is hope to restart the cells in the scalp, to promote the growth of new hair.
C. Cloning: There were also talks about cell-based hair follicle regeneration, wherein the cells which are found around each hair follicle are taken out and nurtured in a controlled environment. However the human trials are yet to field any result. However, Washenik was of the opinion that the best options would be combination treatments. So, there is hope and more than just a light at the end of the tunnel!