Science Is Transforming The Future Of Hair Transplants

Regardless of culture or creed, hair loss is something millions of people face every day. Young people pride themselves on having a full head of hair they can style to perfection. As people get older and many aspects of youth begin to fade, having a full head of hair is often the most difficult to let go of.

Hair is a huge part of fashion and style. Who wants to wear a hat all the time to hide thinning hair? For those who haven’t experienced hair loss, it may not seem like a big deal. For those who have, it’s a pretty big deal. There are natural ways to restore hair, but they don’t work for everyone.

Former hair loss solutions weren’t effective

Not too long ago, the most popular option for hair restoration was the Hair Club For Men. The TV commercials looked good, but never explained exactly how they restored a seemingly full head of hair. As many people found out, it wasn’t exactly easy, nor did it last long.

The process consisted of gluing a matrix of long hair to the patient’s scalp. The hair would be cut down to the appropriate size, and then regular appointments were required – indefinitely – for maintenance.

The problem with this technique was that the glue made people’s scalps itch, and the matrix would often fall off in the middle of the night. Today’s scientific advancements are creating the possibility for natural hair restoration that lasts longer.

Current techniques are more effective and long lasting

Although they aren’t an instant fix, current hair restoration techniques don’t leave people stranded like in the past. Most of these techniques involve transplanting the patient’s own hair.

The most popular and successful hair transplant technique today is referred to as Follicular Unit Transplant (FUT). This process moves hair from a donor area to the site where hair is thinning. It’s a genuine transplant, with hair grafted from one area to another. It takes approximately six months for the results to be seen, however, patients don’t need to make monthly maintenance appointments for the rest of their lives.

FUT, also called the “strip technique,” is performed under local anesthesia so patients can watch TV or rest during the procedure. Once grafted, the hair will grow on its own, replenishing thinning areas naturally. Unlike the HCM procedure, care is taken to create a natural look.

As explained by FUT professionals at MAXiM Hair Restoration, the strip of hair being taken from the donor site will be carefully prepared based on a patient’s facial structure, hair characteristics, and their expectations. They also explain that conventional hair transplants consist of multiple grafts, and each graft generally contains 1-3 hair follicles.

The future of hair transplants is being pioneered by mice

In the future, a little help from science may kick this procedure into high gear, saving time and reducing the number of necessary grafts.

Several years ago, as reported by the New York Times, scientists from Durham University in Britain began studying dermal papillae, the cells that gather in groups to create hair follicles. Though, at the time it wasn’t known that the groups, or clumps, were important.

For decades, scientists have known papillae can reprogram surrounding cells to form hair follicles. This has been tested extensively in mice, however, when testing human papilla cells, scientists were surprised to discover the cells lost the ability to form hair follicles.

Realizing growing papillae in flat Petri dishes was ineffective, they began growing the cells with a new method called the “hanging drop culture.” This method involves placing a single drop of several thousands of papilla cells on the lid of a dish, then turning the lid upside down to allow the drops to hang. That’s all it took to get the cells to start creating hair.

In the future, we can expect to see FUT techniques that incorporate this technology. For now, scientists are figuring out how to speed up the process so it can be used.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.