Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cloning Hairs Seen As Possible Solution to Baldness

24-7 - While the common term is male pattern baldness, the problem of becoming bald prematurely is actually fairly common in both men and women. Millions of men and women suffer from this problem, but there might be a solution forthcoming to allow people to regain their old, lustrous locks --- through the controversial technology known as cloning.

The idea behind this, a technique known as "follicular cell implantation," was recently tested on human beings by a British team of researchers. They promptly hailed the procedure as a major advance in the methods available for hair restoration, with the financial backing from the government amounting to 1.9 million.

Theoretically, the therapy could provide limitless replacements for lost hair. According to the team, the procedure could be used to replace hair lost to burns, cancer treatments, or the simple ravages of old age. The researchers estimate that the technology might be available to the average patient within the next five years, in the best-case scenario.

The method involves extracting cells from the skin known as dermal papilla. These cells are known to be responsible for the growth of hair, and are usually extracted from the back of the scalp - where hair growth is known to continue despite losses everywhere else. The cells are placed in a special culture, where they are made to multiply, stimulating them into developing new hair follicles. The technique has also been successfully used to rejuvenate areas that have simply stopped producing hair.

Intercytex, the British company behind this procedure, is among the major companies competing to find a way to reverse the hair loss that affects an estimated 40% of men over the age of 50. They say that over a thousand injections might be required before the number of hair cells in bald patients will show any signs of growth, but believe it would be quicker and less invasive than the current alternative: hair transplants.

According to the team, it only takes a period of eight weeks for the cells to be able to generate millions of themselves in the special culture developed, allowing for rapid re-growth of hair follicles in the skin. Japanese, Italian, and American groups have also reportedly made progress in using cloning as a means of restoring hair growth, particularly through the use of adult stem cells.

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