The president of the American Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ASHRS), Dr. Marco Barusco, declared in January that hair cloning is the most important technological advance on the horizon for hair restoration doctors. While hair cloning is not yet available, Dr. Barusco said he is encouraged that various companies are now in Phase II clinical trials and he expects the technique to be available in the next couple years.
Hair cloning is generally considered to be any technique that attempts to harvest hair follicle cells from a patient, multiply them in growth media in a lab, and then use the new cells to “reseed” bald scalps. Dr. Barusco added that hair cloning will make possible transplants for people who couldn’t have them in the past because they lacked a sufficient amount of donor hair. At least four companies are now actively engaged in hair cloning research – RepliCel Life Sciences, Aderans Research, Follica and Dr. Coen Gho’s Hair Science Institute. They differ slightly on which type of cells they harvest and use in their process.
In 2008, hair cloning was in the news because of pioneering trials being conducted by a British company, Intercytex, that subsequently had financial difficulties and was sold. The hair challenged public became discouraged by the frequent delays so that many today believe that hair cloning is all hype and that the technology will never arrive.
However, Dr. Barusco doesn’t feel that way. He is encouraged by the research done so far and by the fact that companies such as Aderans and RepliCel are moving on to Phase II clinical trials of hair cloning with greater numbers of subjects.
Hair cloning is not the same thing as stem cell treatments. Other companies, such as Histogen in San Diego, are attempting to develop products that restore and reactivate existing hair follicles on balding heads that have been, in a sense, shut off. The hope is that a unique combination of special growth factors and cytokines will be able to “wake up” these dormant hair follicles so that they once again produce hair on a regular basis. Histogen’s Hair Stimulating Complex, which is currently in development, will be an injectable treatment performed in a medical clinic under a doctor’s supervision.
Cygenx currently produces a growth factor hair growth serum, which it calls RegenRXx, that is available now as a topical lotion. It is applied either alone or with the aid of a dermaroller.