|Hair Cloning -
What's it going to be all About?
August 24, 2001 - San
Source: HairlossSucks.com in conjunction with
Cloning is the latest craze in
the world of science and biotechnology these days, and if
you've been following the news at all, you'll know that many
major decisions are being made by those in power as to what
limits are going to be set on this technology in the coming
years. Scientists from countries outside the United
States are vowing to begin work cloning humans within the
year, and everything from specific organs to complete
organisms are on the agenda.
Dolly - the
first cloned mammal from Adult Tissue
good is that going to do your balding head, you may ask?
Needless to say, this is an exciting time, and the concept of
cloning a hair follicle is the focus of many researchers as
well. The general concept behind follicle cloning has
its roots in traditional hair transplantation
Many of you are working hard
with the proven treatments to maintain and regrow a little bit
of hair. We all pretty much know that transplants are a
last resort due to their high cost and sometimes high risk and
safety issues. In addition to these concerns however are
the issue of donor area availability.
Currently, transplant physicians take
a section of hair from the back of the head (containing follicles
which do not succumb to the onslaught of DHT) and cut a strip of
skin off the person's head. That hair-covered strip of skin is
then used as the donor area, and the follicles found on it are
transplanted from the strip to the front of the person's scalp,
where they are missing hair. Needless to say scalping is not
the most enjoyable experience, and the amount of hair is extremely
limited which is probably why many hair transplants cannot provide
the hair density most would desire.
Enter, hair cloning. The idea
with hair cloning is quite simple: An unlimited amount of
donor hair. The ramifications of this are huge. First,
there will not need to be any major surgery involving the removal of
scalp from the person's head. Second, the density issue will
only be limited by the technology used to implant the follicles into
the front of the scalp. Currently, there are limitations on
the amount of "trauma" the scalp can endure when new
follicles are placed into it, and it is no small task dealing with
post-transplant ingrown hairs, infections, and other skin related
problems. Just check out Mike
Cartwright's hair transplant experience for more info on
that. Either way, the amount of available hair will no longer
be limited, and the density issue may become a thing of the past.
Behind Hair Cloning
In the light of the rapidly developing stem
cell research going on in the medical community today, making use of
these same cells for producing new tissue or even whole organs is
proving to be very challenging. Cloning of a hair follicle, an
elegant miniature organ, is the ultimate task for many scientists and
doctors world wide.
The Hair follicle is a result of a long evolution process that is recapitulated every time during skin
development in mammals, including human beings.
Skin is composed of 2 principal components: The Epithelial [epidermis] and
the Mesenchimal [dermis]. The hair
follicle is the final result of a complex interaction between these 2 tissues. One can not
begin to comprehend the complexity of
molecular signaling between the cells which interact to form a
hair. In fact, scientists are still far from
disclosing all the mechanisms governing hair follicle development and
the subsequent cyclical life cycle of a hair.
Yet, tremendous progress has been made in recent years and our understanding of hair biology
improved. This makes the alluring dream of hair cloning more of a
Ultimately, cloning of hair follicles will most likely have to
create follicles which can at least closely emulate the
developmental events of a normal follicle which take place
during embryo genesis. Therefore, the appropriate cells have to be utilized for this process. No
doubt, the principle cell types involved will be:
- Stem cells of epidermal origin. Stem cells, by definition, have unlimited capacity to divide and can produce offspring that can differentiate into several cell types.
- Dermal cells, of hair follicle origin
(dermal papilla or/and dermal sheath), that can issue hair specific signals, to instruct stem cell development.
Stem cells - at
the Root of it all...
Within the family of stem cells,
there are the following types:
- Totipotent stem cells. Basically,
Totipotent cells are the first few cells developed from a fertilized egg.
They have unlimited capacity.
- Pluripotent stem cells, also known as embryonic stem cells [ESCs]. These cells still have unlimited
capacity an can be used for hair cloning purposes as well.
They are not however capable of producing an entirely new
- Multipotent stem cells - stem cells of
an adult organism. These are believed to have unlimited
capacities to divide, but are much more specialized and under normal conditions contribute only to
type of tissue. In the case of hair, these would be hair follicle stem cells, localized in
the bulge region. These stem cells are the most
probable candidates for hair cloning.
Our understanding of hair stem cell biology greatly improved recently. Several molecular markers of these
cells are already known, which enables scientists to identify these
cells by using specific tools [antibodies against these markers, for
example]. After being "highlighted" in this way, the
"pure population" of bulge
stem cells can be isolated from the rest of skin cell types.
This can now also be done with the Dermal Papilla and Dermal Sheath
of the follicle using the same methods. Having these 2 principal cell
types isolated in this fashion, scientists can begin attempting to
clone hair. One of the great advantages of this "pure
cell culture" is that they can be appropriately genetically
modified. Specific genes can be introduced into these
cells, so that they can correct several pathological conditions on a
molecular level. One of them is AGA (also known as Male Pattern
Wait... It ain't
Before one can successfully clone hair follicles, one
has to understand all the complexities of the follicle, and that the final product of its activity,
hair fiber, has many characteristics in and of itself.
Therefore, just cloning the follicle isn't the whole equation.
It's only the beginning. An additional complication involved
is the need for the cloned follicle to also have the ability to
PRODUCE new hair fibers which have similar characteristics to the
original hair follicles. This can be even more
difficult task than cloning a hair follicle per se. Eventually, experimentally new hair induction was
shown in mid-70 and numerous, more recent experiments confirmed this finding.
To successfully clone a hair follicle, several questions must first
be answered. Some of them are:
- How will we program the stem
cells with the appropriate positional information so that cloned hair follicles will have
proper location in skin, symmetry, growth direction, and angle?
- How will we program in the
exact same pigmentation, so that the cloned hair will be
identical in color and will not stand out if placed next
to uncloned hair, when viewed from a distance? Pigmentation of
hair is dependent
upon the activity and location of the melanocytes, which is another cell type. Do
we have to add these cells to the "hair cloning
- Will sebaceous glands also be
produced as a result of hair cloning? Sebaceous gland cells also originate
from bulge stem cells, but it is not clear at this time which of
these mesenchime cells control this process. They are not the
same as dermal papillae cells. Obviously, they are cells of the upper part of
the dermal sheath. Should these
cells also be included into "hair cloning kit"?
- If cloned, will there be new follicles cycling in normal fashion? It is
believed that it is most likely the Derma Papilla which plays the main
role in hair cycling, but in fact, it is not currently
known which specific molecules are in control of this