New Technologies and Techniques for Hair Replacement

Brian Young

by Brian Young | August 16, 2010 @ 02:00PM

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With age comes wisdom, right? Unfortunately, for many men (and some women), growing older also means thinning hair and possible balding.

In the '50s, doctors began performing hair transplants and have, over the years, improved this basic hair-replacement procedure. Today's patients have a variety of different hair transplant procedures to choose from. Depending on the extent and pattern of hair loss, individuals may opt for hair transplants, scalp flaps, or scalp reductions.

Recent technological advancements have made possible entirely new procedures, as well. From drug therapy to lasers -- here are the newest developments for creating a new, natural-looking head of hair.

Hair Cloning

Scientists are currently working on a "cloning" – or tissue engineering - technique that uses a single hair follicle to create thousands more. This technique for growing thousands of hairs from a single original follicle could produce very exciting results.

Scientists are currently able to perform this procedure in the lab with a number of hairs (usually about 30) taken from the back of the patient's head. By controlling the amount of gasses that these hair follicles are exposed to, doctors keep the cells growing and multiplying in a petri dish. When enough new hair follicles are grown, they can be inserted into a bald area of the scalp, possibly without making large incisions.

The benefits over existing procedures are tremendous. Growing new hair follicles from existing ones would allow patients to actually increase the number of hairs on their head, instead of just repositioning them, as conventional hair replacement procedures do.

While the possibilities of tissue engineering are exciting, this procedure is not yet available. However, the technology exists, and doctors are working on refining the technique. Expect to hear more about it in the very near future.

Lasers and Transplants

While lasers have been used in hair transplants for about 30 years, recent developments have drastically improved the laser's performance for surgical procedures. One of the newest developments is the Erbium:YAG laser. The benefits of this laser are greater speed and improved precision.

Hair transplants move healthy hair follicles to balding or thinning areas of the head. Incisions are made to remove and re-position these follicles. Because it is able to create very small holes with consistent depth and width, the new Erbium laser shows great promise as a hair-replacement tool. The skin is not burned, as it may be from a traditional laser. The surrounding tissue is undamaged and bleeding is also minimized.

Drug Treatments

Minoxidil (marketed as Rogaine) was originally designed to control blood pressure and other heart problems. The drug does not produce hair growth on the front of the head, and only about 25% of male users (and 20% of female users) experience any significant amount of hair growth.

Finasteride (marketed as Propecia) is a newer oral tablet taken once a day to slow hair loss. During clinical trials, more than 80% of participants experienced no further hair loss. More than 65% showed new hair growth.

Unfortunately, Propecia and stronger Rogaine formulations are for men only. Propecia can cause birth defects; pregnant women are even cautioned to avoid touching a broken pill! And men may also find that these drug therapies give only limited help.

The good news is that several new drug treatments are being tested right now. Some appear to have fewer side effects. Others appear to be more effective at producing hair growth. Keep checking back. We'll let you know when these new treatments become available.

From cloning to drug treatments, there are so many new treatments on the horizon that your biggest hair-loss problem may soon be that of choosing the very best hair replacement approach for you. Not such a bad problem to have! 

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