Hair cloning and hair multiplication are proposed techniques which are currently being researched for the treatment of baldness and hair loss.
The concept of cloning hair is to extract healthy hair follicle cells from a patient and cultivate multiple clones of them in vitro, before replacing them back into the patient’s scalp, where they will grow normally.
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What is Hair Cloning (Hair Multiplication)
Hair multiplication is proposed to work along similar lines to actual cloning, but instead of cloning hair follicle cells, the follicles are plucked or transected, and then implanted in the scalp, where they regenerate.
When whole hairs are plucked and reinserted into the scalp, it is hoped that the germinative cells at the base of the hair will generate a new follicle, which will then produce hair on its own.
This method has run into difficulties in its development, however, as it has been found that only a small number of germinative cells can be extracted with each shaft of hair.
Few such cells will survive after being reimplanted in the scalp, making it very difficult for them to generate a new follicle.
The main challenge to be overcome in cloning itself, is that hair follicles cannot grow on their own, yet they are too complex to be grown in test tubes.
Researchers have found promising ways around this problem, but there are still many hurdles yet to be overcome.
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The good news for sufferers of hair loss is that the research is ongoing and global, and therefore we can expect that such treatment will become a reality.
What Are the Advantages of Hair Cloning?
Once the technique has been mastered, it will offer major advantages over other forms of hair loss treatment.
At the moment, there are three popular ways to treat thinning and balding: Firstly, by taking an enzyme inhibitor called finasteride, which prevents damage to hair follicles, allowing them to grow unhindered.
The main drawback of taking finasteride is the relatively high risk of sides effects, which include impotence, dizziness and rashes. However there are also some side effects that can arise from any hair transplant surgery.
A second popular treatment involves the use of tonics with natural ingredients such as Pygeum and Saw palmetto extract, which have not been proven to be effective in clinical trials.
A third, and more lasting solution is to undergo a hair transplant surgery. Such procedures are typically long and uncomfortable in their duration, usually leave scarring and furthermore, require a long recovery period.
Skin with healthy hair follicles is excised from the scalp, this is then dissected into follicular units which are then implanted into other areas of the scalp. There are more modern techniques available, but they are not universally available.
Hair cloning will be considered preferable to all of these methods, in that:
- There is a minimal risk of visible scarring
- There are no hidden side effects
- The procedure is comparatively short
- A successful procedure yields permanent results
What’s New in 2016?
- New legislation in Japan designed to speed up stem cell technology trials, is allowing Replicel, regenerative medicine company, to press on with development of its own hair cloning treatment, which is currently known as RCH-01. Participants are currently being signed up for clinical trials in Japan. Replicel, a Canadian company, has partnered with Japanese skincare giant Shiseido, which has purpose-built a facility in Kobe for the cultivation of cells.
- On June 24th, Dr. Gail Naughton, CEO of Histogen, announced that the company has found a license partner to carry out clinical trials for its HSC treatment in Mexico. HSC is a proposed injectable soluble treatment for hair loss, derived from neonatal cells, which is developed to stimulate hair growth when injected into the scalp. Trials are also planned in the US and China, while the company is seeking a partner for clinical trials in Europe.
- Development of a transplant method using extracted hair follicle stem cells continues at CFS Barcelona Hair Transplant Clinic, where Director Christophe Guillemat is carrying out a third round of trials on 20 patients, hoping to improve on results of 70% growth achieved in 2014, to over 90%, in order to be able to offer the treatment to the public.
- In the Netherlands, Dr. Coen Gho has successfully patented a technique called the HASCI method. Small portions of hair follicles and the stem cell are removed and cultivated before being implanted in another part of the scalp, allowing regrowth to take place in the donor area, and new growth to occur in the receptor area. The treatment is painless and doesn’t leave any scarring, and can be used on both head and facial hair. A sample of patients demonstrates high levels of success over a nine-month period and between 721 and 2490 grafts.
What is the Cost of Hair Cloning?
Dr. Gho’s HASCI treatment, is now available at clinics in Maastricht, Netherlands; Cannes, France; London, England and Jakarta, Indonesia.
The cost of treatment does not have a shelf price, but they do provide a guide to give you an idea of how much the treatment will cost.
Male head types are divided into 12 different categories according to the extent of hair loss that has been suffered. Typically 1000 grafts will cost around $6000.
In the most severe cases, it is unlikely that a full head of hair can be achieved.
Rough prices for men range from around $3,700, for scalps which require fewer grafts, to around $17,800 for types which require the largest number of grafts.
These prices are based on treatment in the Netherlands or France and will obviously vary due to exchange rates and market changes.
The good news is that HASCI offers a free consultation, where it can be determined what type of treatment is most suitable for you. This consultation can be carried out in person or via Skype, saving potential patients what could be a long journey.
The other treatments mentioned here are not yet available to the public. Replicel is asking for patients for trials due to be held in Austria and Germany over a 39-month period – if you live in the region, you might still be able to sign up for free.
Otherwise, continue to monitor the treatment’s development and keep an eye open for new trials in your area. Shiseido Vice President Tsunehiko Iwai has said that Replicel treatment will cost each patient around 100,000 Japanese Yen (around $980 at current rates) once it is made available to the public.
Histogen has so far not given away too many details about its plans for commercialization of treatment, but we do know that the first market it will be available in is likely to be Mexico.
CEO Gail Naughton has stated that HSC will add to Mexico’s already ‘excellent’ esthetic tourism market, suggesting that costs will likely be significantly lower than in other countries in the region – namely the US and Canada.
CFS Hair Transplant Clinic in Barcelona will not make its latest treatments available to the public until they can guarantee a 90% improvement rate.
The cost of their most advanced transplant treatment is currently between around $7,500 and $8,000.
When Will Hair Cloning Become Available?
- As we have seen, Dr. Gho has already made his HASCI treatment available to the public at his clinics in London, Cannes, Maastricht and Jakarta. Treatment is assessed after nine months, when it will be determined whether or not further procedures are necessary.
- Histogen currently has plans to hold clinical trials for HSC in the United States. Those interested should follow the company’s news and updates on its website. Dr. Naughton has stated that the market release of HRC will happen first in Mexico in 2017-18.
- It has previously been speculated that Replicel could be made available in Japan in 2017, depending on the success of Replicel and Shiseido trials this year.
- There is, as yet, no word as to when Dr. Guillemat’s stem cell transfer treatment will be made publicly available. You can follow his Twitter feed and Facebook account to keep an eye out for any major announcements.
Although these methods either have been brought to market, or are within a couple of years of it, there are still questions over the development of hair cloning technology.
Cloning is different from transplanting in a number of ways – cell implantation, for example, cannot give a surgeon any indication of the direction a hair may grow in, or even whether its color and texture will appear natural.
Real cloning requires the determination of which follicular cells can most effectively be cultured in a lab, before being successfully implanted in a patient’s scalp.
Moreover, there are still questions over the long-term effects of cloning. It is not known whether there is a risk of inducing tumors after surgery. In order to reach the market in the United States, any treatment will need FDA approval, which could take several more years.
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