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Hair Loss Treatment

Medications and hair transplantation are available for the treatment of hair loss. In the near future, hairs may grow on a large bald area by using a new method called "hair multiplication" or "hair cloning".

Medications

Two types of drugs are approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Minoxidil (Rogaine)
Rogaine is a topical solution that does not need a prescription. It may be used by both men and women. Rogaine works best at the early stage of baldness. However, after using for 2 years, Rogaine may slowly lose its effectiveness.

Finasteride (Propecia)
Finasteride inhibits the formation of dihydrotestosterone which is the main cause of pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia). It is an oral medication that requires prescription. A study showed that, after 5 years of treatment, 48% of men exhibited hair increase and 42% maintained the original hair. Finasteride may cause some side effects such as sexual dysfunction, but they usually disappeared after the drug was discontinued. Finasteride does not work for women, and it may cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

Hair Transplantation

Hair transplantation is a procedure in which hair follicles are removed from bald-resistant regions (the 'donor' area) and implanted in bald or balding areas of the scalp (the 'recipient' area). The donor area is usually at the back or sides of the head. The transplanted follicles will grow hair in the new area for as long as it would have grown in the donor area.

The techniques of hair transplantation have evolved from transplanting a large strip of skin to a large number of tiny "Follicular Units". A Follicular Unit contains a naturally occurring group of 1-4 hairs. Because each time the transplantation involves only a tiny area of the scalp, the damage is minimal and the healing is rapid.

Hair Multiplication

The hair transplantation described above has a limitation. It can only redistribute the healthy follicles that are still capable of growing new hairs. It does not create new follicles. A person has a finite number of hair follicles, approximately 100,000. If a person is almost totally bald, most of his or her follicles have lost the ability to grow hairs. The remaining healthy follicles will not be sufficient to cover the whole scalp. Although a person may receive follicles from another person, the donated follicles will be rejected by the person's immune system.

Hair multiplication, also called hair cloning, can create as many hairs as you want. In this method, a small number (~ 100) of follicles are taken from the patient. The follicles cannot be multiplied. However, the lower part of the follicle contains hair-inductive dermal papilla cells, which can be isolated and multiplied by a special process. In this way, a large number of hair-inductive cells can be created. These cells are then injected into the patient's scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Hair multiplication is currently in Phase II clinical trial, conducted by Intercytex.