What is Hair Cloning?
Hair cloning is a theoretical hair restoration method that, once perfected, will potentially provide an unlimited source of feasible of donor hair to use for transplants. Instead of relying on preexisting hairs from the scalp or body, doctors will be able to use chemicals to artificially influence the replication of hair cells at will (cloning). There are a number of technological barriers and scientific uncertainties that must be overcome before cloning techniques can be used to restore hair.
Hair Cloning and Dermal Papillae
The premise of hair cloning focuses on the dermal papilla, a structure that connects the hair follicle to the blood supply, providing nutrition so that hair may grow. To do so, the dermal papilla grows upward into another hair follicle structure known as the hair bulb. The hair bulb is what sprouts the actual hair itself, which continues to push through the follicle, emerging past the scalp to become visible hair strands. If the dermal papilla fails to reach the hair bulb for any reason, the hair will permanently cease to grow.
How does Hair Cloning Work?
In many cases of hair loss (alopecia), the hair follicle and dermal papillae have shrunk to the point where new hairs can no longer grow. Dermal papilla cells, however, are quite sturdy, and can survive transplantation into different areas of the scalp. hair. Follicles can produce hair when new, healthy dermal papilla cells are transplanted.
There are four different proposals as to exactly where to introduce these dermal papilla cells.
- The first method injects the dermal papillae cells directly into the second layer of the skin (dermis) of the scalp. This causes the surface skin (epidermis) to change into new hair follicles.
- The second method injects the dermal papillae cells directly into the epidermis of the scalp. Instead of creating new hair follicles, this method would stimulate any older follicles into working again. A major concern with cloning is that the new hair follicles will not follow normal hair growth patterns. This method eliminates this concern because hair will be growing from follicles that were previously intact, meaning the new hair will look natural.
- The third method mixes dermal papillae cells with keratinocytes (cells which produce keratin and cause the hair to mature) in a petri dish. The two cells are cultured and begin to form a hair. The partially-formed hair is transplanted into the designated area of the scalp.
- The final method cultures dermal papillae cells with (or without keratinocytes) as before, but also carefully grows the hair between real or synthetic tissue as a way to control hair direction and growth.
Medical Proof that Cloning will Work
In a breakthrough study called Trans-Gender Induction of Hair Follicles (1999), a researcher named Dr. Colin Jahoda yielded concrete evidence behind the scientific principles of hair cloning. Dr. Colin Jahoda successfully caused hair follicles to grow on laboratory foreskin tissue samples by introducing dermal papillae cells. In doing so, Dr. Jahoda proved that dermal cells can not only cause new hair to grow, but also in areas that were previously genetically unable to do so. This means that patients with no viable donor hair (such as diffuse patterned alopecia), or even no ability to grow hair (such as with Alopecia Universalis), may finally have a way to form fully functioning hair follicles.