For a variety of reasons, hair transplants can be a challenging option for women. But news from a research team in the USA suggests they might be on track to evolve the process and offer a new hair transplant for women. One that ticks all the boxes, we take a closer look.
Hair Transplantation for Women
The evolution of hair transplant techniques has been an interesting one. Early versions gave us the term “plugs” to describe the relocated clumps of hair. The less than kind description alluded to the apparent inability of the relocated hair to grown in a uniform direction. Along with the fact that they were planted like a row of shrubs, it gave a less than satisfactory outcome.
For a long time, developments were occasional and slow. The general direction of travel was to constantly reduce the size of each individual transplant. This gave the surgeon more precision when relocating them, allowing them to be placed closer together for an improved outcome. No less important, to the patient, were the improved scars. Early transplants left some huge, disfiguring scars which only became a problem later. Sometimes years later and invariably when the patient’s hair continued to shed. Eventually, the hair would have to be cut short and expose the scars.
For men, transplantation is fairly predictable. Hair is taken from the back of the head and moved to the hairline or the crown as required. However, for women, the story is more complicated. Women lose hair, typically, across the top of the head in a general thinning which makes using transplantation a challenge. To achieve a great outcome requires many grafts to cover a large area of thinning. But we are all limited by the availability of donor hair. This can make it almost impossible for a surgeon to help a woman get back to an appearance they would be happy with.
New Transplant Technique
News from an American team based at Colombia University, headed by Dr. Angela Christiano, should have women excited. In fact, it is great news for hair loss sufferers, male and female, the world over. But a new hair transplant for women is required and one that addresses their needs.
They have been looking into the issues surrounding growing human hair in the laboratory. They have grown everything from sheep to beefburgers in a laboratory, but it turns out human hair is a special challenge. Techniques used to successfully grow hair with cells taken from mice and rats do not work. For some reason, not fully understood, human hair simply won’t sprout using exactly the same techniques. This is why the clinical trials process that any new drug goes through has to involve a study on humans, regardless of how good results were on rodents.
Dr. Christiano’s team came up with the inspired idea of using a 3D printer to create the matrix to place the cells into. This gave them a chance to design the wells, that the cells are put into. to an incredibly small scale and with a specific elongated shape with a half millimetre ridge at the top. Once the cells have been placed into these wells before keratin is added. This is the protein the hair will be made from. They then add growth factors and sit back to watch hair grow. Which it does! It’s a remarkable achievement and one with profound implications.
Hair Loss Hope
The most obvious application for the new technique is in hair transplantation. It could remove the need entirely for a surgeon to be cutting out follicular units, of any size, for relocation. Instead, they would simply need to take a few cells from the base of a few hair follicles. They could then culture as many new hairs as are required. So new limitations would need to be learned, around how many of these grafts could be placed in a single surgical session. This would not be a change, it would be a revolution. One making the most modern techniques look as dated as those very first attempts.
Beyond transplantation, the technique promises to help every research team in the world looking into hair loss. For the first time, they have access to unlimited amounts of laboratory cultured hair follicles with which to test.
Hair Loss For Women
The progress of female pattern hair loss has always meant transplantation was not the option it is for men. A new hair transplant for women is most definitely needed. If the work of the Colombia team, read more about them here, opens the door to it becoming a meaningful choice it is to be celebrated. For us, the impact it is likely to have on the wider hair loss world is even more exciting. There will be champagne corks popping all over the world with teams understanding the positive impact this will have on their work. Removing the need to find human volunteers, with all their variables, and test on cultured hair follicles it truly a leap forward.
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