The word cloning refers to “making copies”. Derived from the Greek word for ‘twig’, it was originally applied to using a branch from a bush or tree to make a new plant. In the medical world cloning describes a variety of techniques which may be used to gene, cell, or whole organisms e.g. Dolly the Sheep. When people talk about ‘hair cloning’, they usually mean cell therapy, which isn’t true cloning. Over the past couple of decades there has been interest in using cell therapy and tissue engineering to multiply hair follicles Dr. Cooley has been on the forefront of this research and has worked for many years with companies such as Intercytex to further this research. Currently, there are several companies actively researching ways to multiply hair using cell therapy. The basic idea is that a small sample of hair follicles can be taken from the donor area, and specific cells within these hair follicles can be isolated and grown in the laboratory and when reimplanted into the skin will regenerate new hair follicles.
The potential is that with a sample of 50 to 100 hairs we may be able to produce thousands upon thousands of hairs to treat hair loss. While this technology is very exciting and much has been accomplished with animal research the applications in human clinical studies have proven very frustrating. It appears that this treatment is many years away from becoming a practical reality for patients with hair loss.
Autocloning & ACell®
Besides implanting cultured cells, another way to achieve a cloning effect is to stimulate hair follicle regeneration in the scalp. This technique has become a practical reality with the advent of bio-active proteins to stimulate tissue regeneration. Dr. Cooley has also been on the forefront of this research, working with New York hair transplant surgeon Gary Hitzig, M.D. who developed the autocloning technique.
Tissue engineering research has discovered that implanting certain compounds can trigger the body to regenerate normal tissue at the site of injury. ACell® is a biotech company which produces a wound healing compound called MatriStem™ that has applications for hair restoration. ACell® MatriStem™ is an FDA approved agent indicated to promote wound healing at the site of an injury or non-healing wound. It is a sterile porcine derived naturally occurring extracellular matrix which has the ability to stimulate in situ tissue regeneration. Dr. Cooley was one of the first doctors to use ACell® MatriStem™ for hair restoration. At the Carolina Dermatology Hair Center, we have found that use of ACell® MatriStem™ results in reduced donor scarring during follicular unit transplantation as well as FUE.
Another variation of the autocloning technique is to use plucked hairs to stimulate hair follicle regeneration. Hair from the scalp or beard is plucked in a very specific manner to remove the hair shaft as well as the inner layer of the hair follicle. It is then coated with ACell® MatriStem™ and implanted as a normal graft would be. Although the success rate is not 100%, it does work a significant percentage of the time and is especially valuable for scar repair and when traditional sources of donor grafts have become depleted. When repairing a donor scar, we usually combine FUE and autocloning with plucked grafts to produce the best results. This is an area which is rapidly evolving and Dr. Cooley is actively working to develop and refine the use of ACell® MatriStem™ so please check with us during your consultation to see if you are a candidate for autocloning or the use of ACell® MatriStem™ during your hair restoration procedure at Carolina Dermatology Hair Center.