Cloning: The future in hair transplants

At the Ilter Clinic, we pay constant attention to new scientific and technical advancements in hair transplantation. We are also active in researching new progress in the field so that ever-better techniques may be developed in the future.

High-tech research is providing new hope. These methods are still far from becoming commercially available, but gene therapy and cloning may one day reduce limitations we face in the donor area.

Gene therapy

The idea behind gene therapy is to introduce new DNA into a patient’s hair cells. The new DNA would prevent cells from being affected by the DHT (dihydrotestosteron) hormone that causes Male Pattern Baldness.

However, the research is still in its infancy. Some genes have already been identified as the cause behind hair loss, but there are still many other factors to be considered. With this in mind, a great deal of research needs to be done before gene therapy becomes a reality.

Hair cloning

Cloning hair follicles is a new technology. Even though it is considered something of a Holy Grail for people suffering from hair loss because of the potential for an unlimited supply of hair from a single strand, cloning hair follicles is keenly debated. There have been exciting breakthroughs, but the method needs another ten years of research before it is commercially available.
There are two organizations seriously researching a commercially viable way to multiply hair loss-resistant donor follicles. They are Aderans, headquartered in Japan, and Intercytex, based in England.

Hair cloning is a lay term for tissue-developed hair growth. The approach being pursued involves extracting single hair cells from the hair loss-resistant donor area and attempting to replicate them in the laboratory. These “dermal papilla” cells mature into hair follicles in a process known as follicular neogenesis. If they can be stimulated to multiply, then theoretically there is no limit to the number of hair follicles that could be grown in the laboratory and transplanted onto a person’s scalp.

However, controlling the direction of new hair growth from cloned follicles has been problematic. Many people believe hair cell implants will initially be used as filler hair, primarily on the top and crown areas, while critical areas such as the hairline will continue to receive transplants using conventional FUE grafts. Also, the cost of this laboratory-intensive procedure is expected to exceed conventional hair transplantation when it is introduced.

At this point in time, it is not recommended that patients wait for cloning. If and when hair cell implants arrive in the future, they could well be used to create even greater levels of density and fullness behind the transplanted hairline.