Since follicular unit hair transplantation uses nature’s bundles and mimics the appearance of natural non-transplanted hair exactly, there are no major improvements to hair transplantation on the immediate horizon. Simply put, using larger grafts looks pluggy and using smaller grafts look sparse.
Currently, from the patient’s perspective, the biggest limit to follicular unit hair transplantation is that there is a finite amount of donor hair that can ultimately be moved. We currently cannot create new hair; we can only move some of the hair from the donor area to thinning or balding areas. Someone who is or will become extensively bald will not have enough donor hair to cover the entire future bald area with grafts.
There is hope that new technology will be able to eliminate donor hair limitations. Two hopeful ideas are cloning hair and gene therapy.
True cloning of hair would involve taking hair follicle cells and causing them to reproduce and form a hair follicle “in the test tube.” Many lay people think that, since sheep can be cloned, it should be relatively easy to clone hair. In fact it is just the opposite. Hair is a very complicated structure and there is still much to learn about how hair develops. True cloning would be extremely difficult to achieve and is not even in the research stage.
Researchers are working on removing specific key parts of a hair follicle, then culturing the cells in a Petri dish, with certain treatments, so that hair cells can divide and reproduce. They are then injecting these cells under the skin so they can react with the skin cells to form new hair follicles. To date, there has been very limited success with very little hair growing and with that hair not looking cosmetically appealing. While any success is encouraging, we cannot count on “cloning” for the foreseeable future. There are still many obstacles to overcome to get reliable, cosmetically appealing hair in humans and safety and effectiveness will have to be proven before this method will be approved for clinical use. It is our opinion that “cloning” is still many years away from practical use, if it will ever be possible.
The idea behind gene therapy is to introduce new DNA (usually through an infectious agent) to hair cells to alter them so that they won’t be affected by DHT and won’t go bald. Obviously, if this could ever be done, a great deal of proof of safety would be required. Some genes leading to hair loss have been discovered but there are likely many others. To the best of our knowledge, there is research about the genetics of hair loss but there is no current research about gene therapy treatment for hair loss.
Other goals for the future might include finding ways such as automation to make hair transplantation less labor-intensive and faster and in turn this could lower the cost. So far, in our opinion, there is no method to speed up the hair transplantation process that does not affect the quality of the results.
At the Seager Hair Transplant Centre, we will continue to provide hair transplantation that takes advantage of techniques once they have been proven safe and effective. We will both contribute to research and we will monitor the progress of new research very closely.BACK