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The eureka moment for Colin Jahoda, M.D., Ph.D., and Amanda Reynolds, Ph.D.—a husband-and-wife team of biologists at the University of Durham, in England—involved an experiment that also served as a nerdy version of a “Colin Forever” tattoo. Dr. Jahoda removed a hair follicle from his head, put it under a microscope, and snipped off a cluster of dermal papilla cells, which are located in a bulb at the root of the shaft. He then nicked his wife’s forearm with a scalpel and transplanted the cells. A few days later, a thick tuft of dark hair (complete with Dr. Jahoda’s male DNA) emerged.
The experiment demonstrated, for the first time, the possibility of growing hair from transplanted dermal papilla cells. It seemed the two had found a new treatment for hair loss. Yet they soon discovered that, once removed from the body, dermal papilla cells quickly lose their ability to make hair if they are not transplanted immediately.
Angela Christiano, Ph.D., a professor of dermatology and genetics and development at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, collaborates closely with Dr. Jahoda on hair-related research. “Not long after you remove them, the cells don’t even know they’re dermal papillae anymore,” Christiano says, who is sitting in her office behind a desk piled two feet high with books and papers. “It’s like taking an Etch-a-Sketch and shaking it,” she says. “You erase their identity.”
The Jahoda-Reynolds experiment worked because a clump of hair follicle cells were promptly relocated, which preserved their inductivity, a measure of their capacity to remain uniquely hair cells before devolving into something more generic. While I’m in her office, Christiano calls England and puts Dr. Jahoda on speakerphone. “These cells seem to have an in-built regulatory system,” he explains. “We don’t know how it works. Getting the cells to remain inductive is still the basic challenge.”
What’s wrong with the idea of having a person in an operating room, rapidly harvesting half of the follicles from the person’s donor area, rapidly collecting the dermal papilla cells from the harvested follicles and then putting those dermal papilla cells into the person’s thinning areas right away. Since you have only done this with half of the person’s donor area the person would still have enough donor area to look normal.
You could perhaps use techniques that allow full regenration of the harvested tissue and then the person might end up getting back his entire donor area anyway.
Or you could do this by paying another person who would give you half of his/her donor area follicles and the doctor could extract the dermal papilla cells from the follicles the doctor got from the other person and then the doctor would inject those dermal papilla cells into your thinning areas which would then thicken your thinning areas. Theoretically you could do this multiple times.
Whether you used half of the follicles in your own donor area or paid someone else for half of his/her follicles in his/her donor are this would eliminate the need for culturing the cells after you harvest the follicles from yours or someone else’s donor area. You simply take the cells out of the follicles and immediately put them into the thinning areas of the scalp of the person who is losing his/her hair.
Would this work? It seems like this would solve the problem of the cells losing their identity since they have been outside of the body too long.
I think that most likely you would have to use your own follicles and then hope you can regenerate your donor area because even though there are a lot of people asking why we don’t want to give up our hair those same people would not be willing to risk half of their own donor area hair so you would not find other people who would sell you half of their donor area at a reasonable price.