Hair cloning and hair multiplication are proposed techniques which are currently being researched for the treatment of baldness and hair loss.
The concept of cloning hair is to extract healthy hair follicle cells from a patient and cultivate multiple clones of them in vitro, before replacing them back into the patient’s scalp where they will grow normally.
In this post, I’ll break down the complex process of hair cloning. I’ll then provide insight into the latest research on the topic, as well as when you might expect to see hair cloning procedures available to the public.
What is Hair Cloning (Hair Multiplication)?
Hair multiplication is proposed to work along similar lines to actual cloning, in that cells are removed from a host (in this case, humans) and then cultivated in a laboratory setting (1). Once they’ve sufficiently multipled, these cells are reintroduced to the scalp where they will hopefully regenerate.
This method has run into difficulties in its development, however, as it has been found that only a small number of germinative cells can be extracted with each shaft of hair (2). Even further, few such cells will survive after being reintroduced into the scalp which makes it very difficult for them to generate a new follicle.
The even bigger challenge to be overcome in cloning itself is that hair follicles cannot grow on their own, yet they are too complex to be grown in test tubes (3).
Researchers have found promising ways around this problem, but there are still many hurdles yet to be overcome (4).
The good news for sufferers of hair loss is that the research is ongoing and global, and therefore we can expect that such treatment will become a reality.
What Are the Advantages of Hair Cloning?
Once the technique has been mastered, it is believed that it will offer major advantages over other forms of hair loss treatment.
At the moment, there are three popular ways to treat thinning and balding.
The first is by using an FDA-approved medication such as Rogaine (minoxidil) or Propecia (finasteride).
A second popular treatment involves the use of tonics or other hair products with natural ingredients such as pygeum and saw palmetto extract. These are suggested to induce hair growth via natural means, but the vast majority of these ingredients haven’t been conclusively linked to hair growth.
According to researchers, hair cloning will be considered preferable to all of these methods, in that:
- There is a minimal risk of visible scarring
- There are no hidden side effects
- The procedure is comparatively short
And best of all, a successful hair cloning procedure would be likely to yield permanent results.
What’s New in 2019?
While it appears that hair cloning is still quite a ways from reality, there have been developments over the past few years.
Many companies and research centers have jumped on the hair cloning band wagon in the past decade. These include Intercytex, Berlin Technical University, Durham University, Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, and RepliCel Life Sciences.
But it’s the latter two – Riken Centre for Developmental Biology and RepliCel Life Sciences – that have shown the most promise is more recent years.
It was in 2016 when researchers from the Riken Centre first announced they had successfully grown human skin in a lab (9). And it seems that Replicel wasn’t too far behind.
In fact, Replicel (a regenerative medicine company) is currently in Clinical Phase II for the development of their own autologous cell therapy procedure. The procedure, known as RCH-01, involves isolation of dermal sheath cup cells from a small tissue sample of a patient’s scalp. The cells are then cloned within a laboratory setting before being reintroduced into the balding patient’s scalp.
There are other companies that are developing similar techniques, including Histogen and CFS Hair Transplant Clinic.
And Hair Science Institute currently has their own method which, while not cloning, does utilize stem cells to regrow hair in balding area.
What is the Cost of Hair Cloning?
Dr. Gho’s HASCI treatment is now available at clinics in Maastricht, Netherlands; Cannes, France; London, England; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
The cost of treatment does not have a shelf price, but they do provide a guide to give you an idea of how much the treatment will cost. Male head types are divided into 12 different categories according to the extent of hair loss that has been suffered. Typically 1000 grafts will cost around $6000.
In the most severe cases, it is unlikely that a full head of hair can be achieved.
Rough prices for men range from around $3,700, for scalps which require fewer grafts, to around $17,800 for types which require the largest number of grafts. These prices are based on treatment in the Netherlands or France and will obviously vary due to exchange rates and market changes.
The other treatments mentioned here are not yet available to the public.
Replicel is currently in the midst of Clinical Phase II trials, but there’s no telling what kind of timeline to expect.
Histogen has so far not given away too many details about its plans for commercialization of treatment, though they are in the midst of trials for their Hair Stimulating Complex (HSC660).
CFS Hair Transplant Clinic in Barcelona will not make its latest treatments available to the public until they can guarantee a 90 percent improvement rate.
The cost of their most advanced transplant treatment is currently between around $7,500 and $8,000.
When Will Hair Cloning Become Available?
As was mentioned above, there are some techniques currently available that aren’t exactly hair cloning but which do work along similar lines. In particular, I’m speaking about the HASCI treatment that is currently being offered throughout Europe.
There’s no way to tell when exactly actual hair cloning procedures, such as those being trialed by companies such as Replicel and Histogen, will become available.
However, if you consider the great progress that has been made in just the past few years, it’s not unfeasible to think that hair cloning is only a few more years away.
Although these methods have yet to be brought to market, there are already questions and concerns over the development of hair cloning technology.
Cloning is different from transplantation in a number of ways, but most crucially in that cloning requires the determination of which follicular cells can most effectively be cultured in a lab before being successfully implanted in a patient’s scalp.
Moreover, there are still questions over the long-term effects of cloning. In order to reach the market in the United States, any treatment will need FDA approval which could take several more years.
All of this to say, hair cloning is not necessarily a pipe dream; however, there is still much development and testing that needs to be carried out before it becomes available to the public.