Hair Cloning

When a patient has a very large bald area and very poor donor, there is not much that can be done to bring out good hair transplant results in terms of full coverage and density. Such people are forced to remain bald or risk having very poor results. If hair follicles could be cloned, we could give a chance to people with Norwood 5-7 hair loss levels to regain full hair.

Hair Clone is a British company that aims to solve the problem of limited donor hair for hair transplant. Hair Clone is working together with Dr. Ken Williams, Dr. James Harris, Bob Leonard, Russell Knudsen, Jerry Cooley, Dr. Bessam and Niolofer Farjo for further research and experimentation. Some of the areas they are looking into are cell expansion systems that maintain the follicle cell phenotype; cryopreservation, storage, shipment and shelf life of follicle cells; and analysis of clinical data in terms of cell migration, engraftment and modification of follicle and dermal structure. The company hopes to start cryopreservation of the follicle cells in 2017 and clinical trials in 3-5 years.

How does hair cloning work?

The patient donates about 50 hair follicles, which are extracted by FUE. The harvested follicular will then be stored by cryopreservation and shipped to UK where they are stored in a tissue bank for future use. Cryopreservation method achieves cooling of up to -196 degrees C without damaging the cells by freezing.  The cells then become chemically inactive and can be stored for several years without damage. When needed, the follicle cells would be prepared by removing the hair shaft then multiplied in a special cell culture to thousands of cells. This process would take 2 – 3 weeks. The cloned follicle cells would then be injected into patient’s scalp from which the hair vellus would develop into hair shafts.

The main steps involved are:

  • Extraction of the follicular units
  • Cyropreservation of the follicle cells
  • Cyrobanking the cells for several years
  • Extraction of the required cells from the follicle
  • Multiplication of the cells
  • Implanting the follicle cells into the bald scalp
  • Monitoring the hair growth from the cloned cells

The biggest problem they are trying to solve now is to enable hair follicles grow on their own in test tubes. Follicles cannot grow on their own and the cells are too complex to grow in test tubes. Many organizations have tried to culture human follicle cells, but they quickly lose their functionality. Hair cloning is not yet FDA approved because of safety concerns such as ability of the cloned cells to induce tumors.