Hair Cloning and Follicle Banking with Dr. Ken Williams and Orange County Hair Restoration

Dr. Ken Williams and Orange County Hair Restoration announce their partnership with UK based HairCone™ for follicle banking and future clinical trials cloning hair cells. As a founding clinical partner, Dr. Williams brings state-of-the-art and novel hair restoration technology and science to clinical practice for his male and female patients who suffer from hair loss disorders.

Dr. Williams was selected as a clinical facility to research and further the scientific applications of hair cloning by HairClone™. The selection was based on his high level of technical skills and scientific interest in developing hair cloning. Along with Dr. Williams, an international group of physicians and researchers include Dr. James Harris, Bob Leonard, Russell Knudsen, Jerry Cooley, Drs. Bessam and Nilofer Farjo.

Established cell expansion systems that maintain the follicle cell phenotype using full genome arrays will be used. Cryopreservation, storage, shipment and shelf life of follicle cells are developed, and establishing methods to analyze clinical data in terms of cell migration, engraftment and modification of follicle and dermal structure will be scientifically investigated in the clinical trial.

The work will be carried out in collaboration with leading scientists in Manchester, Bradford, and London. Early work has already begun and HairClone™ were recently awarded an important grant by the UK Government to continue this work.

HOW IS HAIR CLONING DONE WITH THE HAIRCLONE™ CONCEPT?

HairClone™ have launched the world’s first follicle banking service and Orange County Hair Restoration will be the only HairClone™ authorized procurement center in Orange County. 100 hair follicular units would be harvested by Dr. Williams or staff under local anesthesia. This procedure would take approximately 30 minutes to perform. Our office will remove the harvested follicular units using a FUE device typically without sedation unless great anxiety exists. Your own native and existing hair will hide the harvest sites and postoperatively patients go back to normal life almost immediately. The harvested follicular units will be shipped to the our affiliated clinic in the United Kingdom. The harvested follicles are then cryopreserved and stored in a government approved tissue bank until needed in the future.

Current federal laws prevent any treatments using cultured (cloned) hair follicle cells in the United States of America at this moment. What makes  the work that HairClone™ are doing  in partnership with Dr. Williams on hair cell cloning a great potential, is that the intention is that we can hold hair transplant surgery until necessary. In some patients with a strong family hair loss and who are young, the banked hair follicles could be used later in life with balding patterns occurs. The follicular units could be taken from the bank and processed to isolate the specific cells involved in the production of the hair shaft itself. These cells would be grown in culture in an approved UK government licensed laboratory. The follicles cells would divide and multiply rapidly over the subsequent 2-3 weeks.

These expanded cells would then be transported back to our affiliated hair restoration clinic in Manchester, England. Our affiliated physician could then micro-injects the cloned hair cells back into the patient’s scalp. The aim is that these cells migrate to miniaturizing cells replacing the cells that have been lost and existing villus hairs could transform back into thicker terminal hair shafts.

WHAT IS CRYOPRESERVATION?

Cryopreservation is a process where biological constructs are preserved by cooling to very low temperatures (typically -80 °C or -196 °C using). Cryopreservation methods seek to reach these ultra low temperatures without causing additional damage caused by the formation of ice during freezing. At low enough temperatures, any chemical activity in the cells is effectively stopped and at these low temperatures cells can be stored for many years and if thawed correctly are then able to function normally. HairClone™ in partnership with a licensed tissue bank in the UK have developed the world’s first cryopreservation system for whole hair follicles that is approved bu regulators fro cryopreserving anf banking of patients’ hair.

WHAT ARE DERMAL PAPILLA CELLS?

Dermal papilla (DP) cells are mesenchymal cells that reside in the dermal papillae of the hair follicle. They are the focus of intense interest because the DP not only regulates hair follicle development and growth, but is also thought to be a reservoir of multi-potent stem cells. It is these DP cells that are lost during androgenic alopecia resulting in miniaturization of the hair follicle and a reduction in diameter and length of the hair shaft. Eventually this reduction gives the appearance that the hair shaft is lost. Read More

WHAT IS THE HAIR FOLLICLE DERMAL PAPILLA?

The dermal papilla of the hair follicle follicle is a small “stud” of the dermis around which the mainly tubular indentation of the epidermis fits. It is this tubular indentation that forms the base of the hair follicle.

WHAT RESEARCH IS NEEDED TO MAKE HAIR CLONING A REALITY?

There is over 40 years of basic research already to support the importance of the dermal papilla cell in hair miniaturization and hair loss and the HairClone™ team have extensive experience in this area. Although more scientific and clinical research is still needed before this concept can be fully developed, we believe that this could be a reality in 2-3 years as many of the steps needed are already known such as:

  • Method to remove the follicular units
  • Method to cryopreserve hair follicles
  • Method to cryobank hair follicles for many years
  • Method to micro-dissect out the required cells from the hair follicle
  • Method to micro-inject follicle cells back into the scalp
  • Monitoring systems to measure hair shaft thickness and hair density

The main questions that research needs to determine are:

  • The best markers to use to measure hair follicle inductivity
  • The optimum system to expand cells in culture in order to maintain inductivity
  • The mechanisms by which re-implanted cells rejuvenate and regenerate hair follicles

WHAT IS HAIR CLONING?

Hair Cloning has been proposed for many years as the ultimate treatment for hair loss. Hair transplantation successfully moves hairs from one region of the scalp to balding regions but is not able to increase the total number of hairs available. Hair cloning would in effect, disassemble a few hair follicles, multiply these cells in the laboratory and then reintroduce them into the scalp to both rejuvenate miniaturising hair follicles and induce brand new hairs. Other groups have tried this but it has been found that when human follicle cells are cultured, they rapidly lose their functionality to induce these new hairs to form. Recent scientific breakthroughs however indicates how cultured dermal papilla cells could be used to rebuild miniaturizing hairs which is why we have created HairClone™, now. A longer term project is to combine cultured follicle cells to build early stage follicles that could conceivably be used to create brand new hair follicles in regions where the follicles have miniaturized too much to be rejuvenated. However, we believe it is mcuh better to rebuild and repair existing follicles than having to reate entirely new ones.

WHAT IS MEDICAL INNOVATION?

Medical innovation involves clinicians and surgeons using their skill and best judgement to develop a therapy. With this process, different procedures are tried and communicated to colleagues and there is the steady evolution of best practice. This is indeed exactly how hair transplantation developed from plug grafts, to strip grafts to follicular unit extractions. HairClone™ has developed its clinical partener network with world leading hair transplant surgeons so that it can work within the various national regulatory systems  to enable clinicians to use their skills to help develop treatments.

WHEN WILL HAIR CLONING BE AVAILABLE?

HairClone™ has launched the worlds first follicle banking service and Orange County Hair Restoration will be an authorized procurement center. The challenges now relate to developing systems to isolate and expand (clone) the dermal papilla cells to the starndard that can be used in the clinic. The impotance of this is recognized by the fact that the UK Government have recently approved a grant to provide significant funds to enable HairClone™ to develop this stage. The process will then require authorization from the various UK and US regulatory agencies before clinical trials can begin in the US.

We hope that we can begin clinical trials proper within 2-3 years. It will take time to complete these trials and then apply for and obtain marketing licenses from the regulatory bodies. The management of HairClone™, when in previous positions, have carried out over 19 different clinical trials around the world and have developed a variety of cell therapies that have treated over a million people so we have a huge amount of experience in this area. Please keep checking the website and follow us on Facebook (#HairClone) and Twitter (@HairClone) to keep updated on our progress.

HOW IS HAIR LOST?

Hair is a naturally regenerating mini-organ. It goes through periods of growth, then resting, shedding and regeneration as shown in the diagram below. This process is controlled by a very specific group of stem-like cells at the base of the hair follicle called Dermal Papilla (DP) cells. The number of these cells determines the thickness of the hair shaft that is produced by the sheath cells. A full thickness hair on the scalp is called a terminal hair. With some hairs, at each hair cycle the number of DP cells is reduced and the subsequent hair is thinner. Eventually, it is too thin to have a full cosmetic effect and is termed a vellus hair.