Millions of people, both men and women, struggle with hair loss and turn to medications and procedures to try and re-grow or replace their hair. These procedures are often not permanent, however. One procedure scientists are using to permanently replace lost hair is hair cloning. Hair cloning is a procedure by which the cells that are thought to control hair growth are extracted and multiplied. The multiplied cells are then injected back into the bald person's scalp where new hair should start growing.
Hair cloning, as it stands, is not true cloning. New hair follicles are not being completely made using one cell, as is true with cloning. Rather, the process extracts the derma papilla cells from the bulb located at the bottom of a donor's hair follicle. These cells are cultured and multiplied in a lab. Then once the cells have reached a predetermined number, they are inserted into the bald person's scalp.
Derma papilla cells are thought to stimulate nearby hair follicles to start growing. Not only that, but it is thought that they may stimulate the other cells to form new hair follicles as well. Another type of cell called keratinocytes are also important to hair cloning, as both this cell and derma papilla cells are necessary to produce a hair follicle. Derma papilla cells can be cultured with keratinocytes to produce partially grown hair that is inserted into the scalp. It is also possible to culture derma papilla alone and insert it into the scalp where the existing keratinocyte cells can be used to stimulate hair follicle growth.
There are some problems that scientists will have to work to overcome before hair cloning becomes mainstream. One of these problems is making sure the hair is aligned properly. Scientists are working to find a way to ensure that the inserted cells will stimulate hair to grow in the correct angle and direction. If the hair does not grow in the proper pattern, the person with the implants may have hair growing every which way. This random growth may make the person's new hair look strange and false.
Another issue scientists are dealing with is making sure the procedure will not produce an allergic reaction in the patient. Hair follicles are a unique type of cell in the body in that they seem to be immune neutral. This means that derma papilla cells may be able to be taken from one person and transplanted into another without the recipient's body rejecting it. Though that is the initial thought, scientists continue to study the procedure to ensure there are no major health problems associated with hair cloning or transplantation. If there is, they may have to find a way to overcome it before the procedure can be popularized.
Scientists also are working to keep the cells they multiply differentiated. For some reason, multiplied cells can lose their ability to signal and stimulate neighboring cells to grow hair follicles. Implanting such a cell into a person's scalp may be useless. Therefore, scientists are trying to find a way to ensure the multiplied cells continue to function so that hair is able to grow.