The Model for Hair Cloning
When it comes to cloning, hair follicles are in a tough spot. They are too complex to be simply cultured (growing hair follicles in a test tube would be like trying to grow a set of teeth) and follicles are not whole organisms (like Dolly) and, therefore, cannot be outright cloned. Fortunately, a pair of clever scientists, Drs. Amanda Reynolds and Colin Jahoda (now working with Dr. Christiano), seem to have made great headway in solving the dilemma.
In their paper Trans-Gender Induction of Hair Follicles, the researchers have shown that dermal sheath cells, found in the lower part of the human follicle, can be isolated from one person and then injected into the skin of another to promote the formation of new intact hair. The implanted cells interacted locally to stimulate the creation of full terminal (i.e. normal) hair follicles. Although this is not actually cloning (see the definition above), the dermal sheath cells can potentially be multiplied in a Petri dish and then injected in great numbers to produce a full head of hair. The word potentially is highlighted, as this multiplication has not yet been accomplished. It seems, however, that this hair “induction” processes is the model most likely to work.