Updated: Jul 9
Since the dawn of time man has been losing his hair, and since that same morning he has also been trying to figure out a way to cure it.
Hair loss treatments are getting better, but very slowly, and the reality is that hair loss is just plainly very complicated. Scientists still do not fully understand all of the mechanisms in place that cause hair loss, or subsequently how we can treat it with 100% effectiveness.
It seems like you hear about a new hair loss treatment coming out once a month (if you pay attention, but most never gain any traction and the hype fizzles out in a matter of weeks. Factors like genetics, air pollution, DHT, hormones, and more make it extremely difficult to re-invent the wheel when it comes to treatments, which is exactly why there has not been anything revolutionary in recent years.
But instead of looking at the now, we need to be looking into the future. There is an exciting abundance of new hair loss treatment technologies being researched and studied as we speak. One of those, which we will be discussing today, is called hair cloning, and it has been grabbing peoples attention throughout the hair loss community.
What is hair cloning?
Also called hair multiplication, hair cloning is an exciting development in the hair loss field that shows a lot of promise for the future.
It was previously assumed that in areas of baldness (i.e. no visible hair) the hair was completely gone. But, in 2011 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that non-bald and bald scalps alike have the same number of stem cells in the scalp. This is important because stem cells are essentially neutral or non-defined cells, meaning that they have the ability to develop into many different cell types, including cells that make up hair.
The idea behind hair cloning is that you would extract 50-100 (possibly less) hair follicles and isolate the dermal papillacells because they are what control hair growth, cycles, length, and thickness. Then, through culturing methods, hair follicles will be multiplied and injected back into the scalp where they will (in theory) grow and behave like healthy hair. The stem cells that are still present in bald areas would develop around, and strengthen the dermal papilla and help produce healthy, thick hair.
Essentially the multiplied hair will be planted in the scalp like “seeds” and the stem cells would act as the “soil.” At least this is the hope. Hair cloning is still in its early stages of development and a lot more research is needed.
How far along is hair cloning research today?
Since the discovery of stem cells in bald spots in 2011, research has come a long way, in fact it was that discovery started a snowball effect throughout the industry.
After that initial discovery scientists were intrigued. Several important studies have helped progress the hair cloning field immensely and have allowed us be able to not only multiply (clone) the hair, but also implant it and have it successfully grow. We have even developed technology called cryopreservation which cools hair follicles down and stops degeneration!
All of that sounds great, except there is still one major issue that scientists are facing. When the hair grows in can grow in random directions, it may not match the persons natural hair color, and it is generally unpredictable, which can ultimately lead to an unnatural look. This is a huge problem when trying to solve a cosmetic issue such as hair loss.
That’s not to say that we aren’t moving in the right direction though. A breakthrough study in 2019 conducted by Stemson Therapeutics was testing a 3D printed mold. Essentially, the mold is considered to be a “scaffold” and is made from the same material as dissolvable stitches. Its purpose? Control the direction that the hair follicle grows and help guide the follicle through the skin (which isn’t as easy as it sounds, your skin is tough), very exciting indeed. Even more exciting is that it was shown to be highly successful.
The one major drawback is that it was conducted on mice, and although this may have implications for humans, it is not certain by any means.
All in all, we have made immense strides in the field of hair cloning. We now know how to effectively clone the hair, store the hair, implant the hair, and we even have a prospective technology that may be able to control the direction of hair growth.
What to expect in the near future for hair cloning
There are many different companies/organizations that are working on hair cloning and other treatments, read this for more in depth information
Stemson Therapeutics is still considered to be the front runner in North America for hair cloning technology. They have the most promise and are the furthest along in their research and should certainly be a company that you keep your eyes on.
Unfortunately, just because they are the furthest along does not mean the hair cloning industry as a whole is ready for a product to hit the market. According to Geoff Hamilton, the CEO of Stemson, they are aiming to start phase 1 human trials for their 3D scaffold technology in late 2020 to early 2021. The company is still in the “pretrial” phase which means that they still have many obstacles ahead of them. Some experts are predicting that the technology may not be available until around 2027, provided that everything goes smoothly (fingers crossed).
What you should do right NOW
It sucks that us hair loss sufferers have to wait so long, but patience is the name of the game. In fact, we should be thankful that scientists are working vigorously to find a solution, it’s not easy work.
If you are currently losing your hair there are still a number of treatments, namely finasteride and minoxidil (among other effective treatments) that you can use. These treatments have been shown to work well and help stabilize hair loss, and in some cases regrow new hair.
That’s not to say there is not room for improvement though, and a lot of it. The treatments that are currently available are good, but we all want something great, right?
Follicle Thought (the same website I linked to at the start of this section) is a great resource. It does a good job of keeping its readers updated with the latest news about hair loss research and technologies being developed. If you were proactive, you would keep up to date with the information surrounding new technologies because even as early as next year there are treatments that will become available, some of which might prove to be a great addition to your hair loss regimen.
To summarize, be patient, keep your fingers crossed, and make sure you are doing anything and everything you can with what we have available. If you do, you will likely not only improve your current hair, but potentially respond better to treatments that come out in the future.
Hair cloning is a promising and unique development in the hair loss world. It has a lot of promise, but it also still has a long way to go. Will it be the magic cure everyone has been hoping for? No one can say for sure. The best thing you can do is remain optimistic and pay attention, it might just save your hair in the future.