YOUR HEALTH: Cloning hair to eliminate baldness

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SANTA ANA, California – By the time they're 50, 85% of American men will have significant hair loss.

It can have serious consequences: one study found nearly 75% of men feel less confident and their hair loss can lead to depression.

Now, an international team of hair restoration doctors is turning to cutting-edge science to grow more hair through cloning.

Construction worker Ric Ortega has dealt with hair loss for a while. For him, it's a health concern.

"I'm outside a lot because I work in the construction industry," said Ric.  "I worry about skin cancer on the top of my head."

Ric is considering a hair cloning clinical trial with Doctor Ken Williams, a hair restoration surgeon with California-based Orange County Hair Restoration.

Dr. Wiliams is working with Hair Clone, a British company that believes it will perfect the science of cloning hair.

"The typical candidate would be someone who has had multiple surgeries and can't have any more hair transplantations, but they have lots of areas of balding," explains Dr. Williams.

Doctors would harvest 50 hair follicles and send them to a cryopreservation tank in England.  Surgeons there would remove the hair shaft from the bulb, which holds cells that control growth.  Then, the cells are multiplied, in a special cell culture.

"Then, when the patient is ready, they have the actual transplantation," explains Dr. Williams.

"They would let us know and we'd go through the process of replication, and getting those 50 cells will now turn in to 1500 cells."

The trial would cost Ric between $4000 and $10,000 plus air fare to England where he`d get his cloned hair.  England is the only western country that allows this type of treatment.

The main challenge in cloning is that hair follicles cannot grow on their own, yet they are too complex to be grown in test tubes.  There may be safety concerns that cells that induce hair may also induce tumors and once this issue is resolved, the FDA still must approve hair cloning for safety and effectiveness.

There are plans for clinical trials in the U.S. and may be approved in upcoming years.

EMOTIONAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH HAIR LOSS: A study revealed that men who had more profound hair loss were more dissatisfied with their appearance and were more concerned with their look than those with minimal hair loss. Studies have shown that in men who suffer from hair loss, nearly 75% of them feel less confident since the onset of hair loss, especially in dealing with the opposite sex. In extreme circumstances, hair loss can cause distress and result in depression.
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