Hair today doesn't have to be gone tomorrow, if the positive results of a new procedure continue to hold steady.
Dr. Sara Wasserbauer, a hair restoration surgeon in Northern California, is performing HairClone Follicle Preservation, a procedure that allows patients who anticipate they might lose their hair in the future to bank hair cells so they can be used for treatments down the road.
"Discoveries in hair biology and preservation have slowly been progressing in the background in our field for years,” says Dr. Wasserbauer, former president of the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery. “But now it is all coming together and essentially a whole third branch of hair medicine is opening up before our eyes.”
The first step is called hair banking, a method to preserve hair follicles when cells are the most active and vibrant.
- Dr. Wasserbauer consults with a patient to qualify them. The best suited candidate is at least 18 years old and has a family history of serious hair loss.
- A date is scheduled for the procedure which will last less than two hours.
- For the procedure, Dr. Wasserbauer numbs an area on the patient’s scalp that is the length of a finger, then she removes up to 50 grafts for the sample.
- Dr. Wasserbauer examines the sample and documents the exact number of hairs, what they look like, and stores them in a refrigerated box that ships to the United Kingdom where the sample is cryopreserved and banked until needed.
Cryopreservation methods reach very low temperatures so any chemical activity in cells is stopped. If thawed correctly, the cells are then able to function normally.
The hair follicles are essentially frozen in time; the tissue stays viable for at least 20 to 30 years.
“We performed HairClone Follicle Preservation on patients in Northern California for the first time in 2020,” says Dr. Wasserbauer. “The hair follicles we removed are then cryogenically frozen which stops the aging process of the hair. The follicles are stored in the United Kingdom where tissue banking has been approved by the government. We are hoping the FDA will grant approval to store tissue at United States storage facilities sometime this year.”
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