Several research teams around the world have successfully cloned human hair follicles, though only in limited amounts, which could prove to be the most effective permanent cure for baldness. The treatment is expected to be available in two years.
In what might become the most effective permanent treatment for baldness, several research teams around the world have successfully cloned human hair follicles - though only in limited amounts.
Though human trials are yet to be held, the cloned follicles have been successfully implanted into the soles of the feet of mice and with human trials expected within two years, the new technology is giving hair-loss sufferers a great hope of remedy.
Now, the challenge for scientists at the University of Melbourne and St Vincent's Hospital, and for research teams at Berlin Technical University and British company Intercytex, is to increase the number of follicles that can be cloned from a single hair taken from a patient's scalp.
At the moment, one hair produces only one or two clones.
"We've got to find a way of increasing the yield," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Prof Rod Sinclair, head of the research team at St Vincent's as saying.
"We've got to find a way of multiplying one hair extracted into 1000 hairs ... what commonly happens in the expansion process is that they lose their ability to induce new hair follicles," he said.
Sinclair said cloning hair was difficult because each strand, including its follicle, was a complete organ like a kidney or liver.
"Human stem cells are actually pretty weak and that's one of the problems that we've got," he said.
To clone hair, scientists have to extract stem cells from the hair follicle, multiply them in a culture dish, and then implant them into the scalp.
"They have to produce hair that is the right thickness, the right length, the right angle as it leaves the scalp, and the right degree of curliness," said Sinclair.
Despite the difficulties, the scientists are encouraged by the success of the trials involving mice.