London: A new treatment for baldness, in which a patient’s own hair follicles are cultured in a laboratory and reinjected into the scalp, is being tested on UK patients.
The treatment is being developed by Manchester-based Intercytex, with the help of £1.9m cash from the British government.
The procedure works by collecting the stronger hair follicles at the back of the head and reproducing them. After eight weeks there should be millions of cells but because several injections would be required it is thought that the procedure will not necessarily be viable in restoring whole heads of hair.
As well as lotions, creams and pills there are advanced surgical procedures such as follicular unit transplant, in which healthy hair follicles are grated from the side of the head to bald areas. But this is very expensive, requires several operations and takes many hours to carry out.
The potential market for a baldness cure is huge – 40% of men aged over 50 are afected.
The most daunting part of the procedure is that a typical bare pate would need about 1,000 injections to establish enough new hair follicles. Each injection would penetrate just 3mm into the skin and would be done under local anaesthetic.
The procedure has been tested on seven volunteers at the Farjo Medical Centre, a commercial hair restoration clinic. The first volunteers received injections of hair follicle cells into small patches on their scalps. The number of hairs in the treated area increased from 250 before the treatment to 316 after.
Dr Bessam Farjo said the trials at this clinic indicated that the new procedure would be faster and cheaper than current surgical methods.