Dr Bessam Farjo


He’s past President & Fellow of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) and Founder Member and Past President of the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery (BAHRS)

If
you’ve got an interest in hair restoration, or you’re worried about losing your
own locks, chances are you saw the news last week announcing a ‘critical
breakthrough’ in the fight against hair loss. 

Newspapers
and websites trumpeted a ‘cure for baldness’, courtesy of scientists at the
Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla,
California. 

But
I wouldn’t start throwing away your hats just yet. 

Because
while there’s cause for optimism, this research may not quite be the great
white hope it’s being made out to be. 

And
we’re still a long, long way from being able to champion a ‘cure’ for lost
follicles. 

Let’s
look at the evidence, which was presented at the annual meeting of the
International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) in Los Angeles.

The
scientists here were able to grow hair through the skin of mice using induced
pluripotent stem cells to make dermal papilla cells – which govern hair growth
– attached to a biodegradable scaffold. 

They
suggest it’s a method that could provide ‘unlimited’ hairs for someone who
needs them. 

However,
it’s important to note that growing human hairs on mice is not new – this sort
of work using human dermal papilla cells has been performed for more than 20
years. 

And
the perpetual problem lies in translating these results from mice to
humans. 

At
this moment in time, that has never been done to a level that is cosmetically
useful, and the biology of humans and mice is simply not the same. 

And
finding a solution to this problem is one of the billion dollar questions in
the field of hair restoration. 

What
happens is that the human dermal papilla cells lose their ability to make new
hair shafts in human skin once they are outside their natural habitat, and so
exporting them to a human head has so far been incredibly difficult. 

Work
is ongoing in several laboratories around the world investigating how human
dermal papilla cells can generate new hair and, although the research is very
promising, no one has yet made a cosmetically useful new hair from human cells

So
where do we go from here..? 

There
has been advancements in our basic understanding of the process of hair
loss. 

And
that is leading to alternative ways in which dermal papilla cells could be used
 at the initial signs of balding. 

When
dermal papilla cells at the hair root, it results in the hair shaft itself
becoming thinner and shorter and which gives the appearance the hair has been
lost.

Yet
there has been positive clinical advancements in technology that allows someone
to ‘bank’ or freeze healthy hair follicles for future use. 

When
needed, the hairs would be thawed and the dermal papilla cells can then be
isolated and multiplied many times in the lab.

These
multiplied cells can then be injected back into the patient’s scalp, where they
can target miniaturising hairs and begin the rebuilding and rejuvenating
process. 

The
point here is that there’s promise when it comes to rebuilding existing,
thinning hairs. 

And
we may one day, be able to regenerate as many new hairs as we need, at any
point in time, without worrying whether or not we’re going to run out in the
future. 

But
such technology currently eludes us – despite last week’s proclamations. 

And
if you’re among the many who suffer from Androgenic alopecia – aka male or
female pattern baldness  and which affects 80% of men and 40% of women
throughout a lifetime – there may be technologies to rebuild newly
miniaturising hairs, but if they have been lost completely then you’ll have to
bide your time for now and concentrate your efforts on hanging on to the hair
you have.

Dr Bessam Farjo is a hair restoration surgeon and founding director of the Farjo Hair Institute.
He’s past President & Fellow of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) and Founder Member and Past President of the British Association of Hair Restoration Surgery (BAHRS. He’s also appeared as an expert on Channel 4 shows Body Shocker and Embarrassing Bodies.





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