An Overview of Hair Cloning or Hair Multiplication
Hair follicle cloning, or cell multiplication, represents the future of hair restoration and transplantation. The scientific theory behind hair cloning involves removing hair follicle cells, multiplying them in the laboratory, and then injecting them back into the patient’s scalp.
This process is not true “cloning” but rather, tissue engineering or cell therapy. Hair cloning is a misnomer that has stuck and is used to describe the general process of hair multiplication. Actual cloning is when an exact copy of a living cell or organism is produced; not the same thing.
Once the hair follicle cells are harvested, they are allowed to multiply using cell culture.
In culture, cells divide, so one cell becomes two, two becomes four and so on, resulting in large numbers of new cells. From an original sample of around 10 hairs containing 100,000 hair follicle cells, several million offspring cells could be injected, resulting in several thousand new hairs.
“Hair cloning” pioneer Ken Washenik, MD, PhD. further illustrates the explanation of hair multiplication.
“The idea is to take these cells from the bulb of the hair, grow them in culture, and come back with an increased number of hair seeds you could inject into the scalp,” Washenik says. “You start with a small number of hairs and come back with a larger number of hair seeds, and inject them into one area, and just create brand-new hair follicles.”
Moreover, researchers have discovered that some follicle cells do more than regenerate. They give off chemical signals. Nearby follicle cells — which have shrunk during the aging process — respond to these signals by regenerating and once again making healthy hair. It works in lab mice. And, Washenik says, it works in human skin cultures, too.
Despite these advances and the soundness of the hair multiplication theory, researchers are still a long way from making this a procedure available to the masses. Some sources say 6 to 8 years, while others think it will more likely take decades.
No matter the time-frame, Dr. Shelly Friedman outlines the barriers and obstacles researchers will have to overcome in order to make hair multiplication a viable reality.
For hair cloning to work, researchers need to be able to produce a consistent number of hair follicles for a given number of injected dermal papilla cells, figure out how to control the angle at which the new follicles grow, and produce a consistent level of density over the treated area. Currently, these are the 3 main roadblocks to successful “hair cloning.”