How is hair lost?
Hair is a naturally regenerating mini-organ. It goes through periods of growth, then resting, shedding and regeneration as shown in the diagram below. This process is controlled by a very specific group of stem-like cells at the base of the hair follicle called Dermal Papilla (DP) cells. The number of these cells determines the thickness of the hair shaft that is produced by the sheath cells. A full thickness hair on the scalp is called a terminal hair. With some hairs, at each hair cycle the number of DP cells is reduced and the subsequent hair is thinner. Eventually, it is too thin to have a full cosmetic effect and is termed a vellus hair.
What is the HairClone™ Concept?
Approximately 50 hair follicular units would be taken by a hair transplant surgeon under local anesthetic. This would be about a 30 minute procedure and would require the surgeon taking out the follicular units using a tiny punch extractor. The patient’s own hair should comfortably hide the harvest sites and he/she can go back to normal life almost immediately and there would be no long lasting scars. Initially these follicular units would be cryopreserved and banked until needed.
When required, some of the follicular units would be taken from the bank and processed to isolate the specific cells involved in the production of the hair shaft itself. These cells would be grown in culture in MHRA licensed laboratories and they would divide and multiply rapidly over 2-3 weeks. These expanded cells would then be transported back to the clinic and micro-injected into the patient’s scalp where needed where they would be expected to rejuvenate the thinning vellus hairs causing them to produce thicker terminal hair shafts and regain a more youthful appearance. In a later version of the product injected cells would be able to create brand new hair follicles by a process called follicle neogenesis.
What research is needed to make hair cloning a reality
There is over 40 years of basic research already to support this concept and the HairClone team have extensive experience in this area. Although more scientific and clinical research is still needed before this concept can be fully developed, we believe that this could be a reality in 2-3 years as many of the steps needed are already known such as:
- Method to remove the follicular units
- Method to cryopreserve hair follicles
- Method to cryobank cells for many years
- Method to micro-dissect out the required cells from the hair follicle
- Method to micro-inject follicle cells back into the scalp
- Monitoring systems to measure hair shaft thickness and hair density
The main questions that research needs to determine are:
- The best markers to use to measure hair follicle inductivity
- The optimum system to expand cells in culture in order to maintain inductivity
- The mechanisms by which re-implanted cells rejuvenate and regenerate hair follicles