What Could the Future Hold?
Scientists have brought hair transplant surgery a long way since the 1800s, when scalp flaps were first performed to move hair-bearing scalp into bald areas. The technology has been advanced to the point of transplanting individual follicles to create a very natural look in the new hairline.
But as advanced as the technology currently is, hair transplant surgery is poised to get even better in the coming years. Scientists and doctors are working to improve hair replacement surgery, developing new techniques and materials that could be safer and have better results. What could the future hold? Here are a few of the innovations now coming down the pipeline.
While it’s great to be able to transfer existing hair into a balding area, the scarring in the donor area is unattractive to some potential patients. These scars are nearly always well-hidden in the hair that grows in that area, but occasionally the scar can be seen, especially if the man prefers a very short hairstyle. Getting hair from someone else (as is done with most organ transplants) could solve that problem, but it creates a new problem — the transplanted hair would be rejected, unless the man takes strong medications to suppress the immune system for the rest of his life, leaving him vulnerable to diseases. It’s just not worth it.
But what if his own hair could be grown in a lab from a small sample? The lab could grow as much hair as necessary, and then it could be transplanted into the bald areas. No scars, no immune system rejection. Each hair follicle actually contains a few stem cells, which generate the new hair each time the hair grows. So it’s not that far-fetched, and given the progress that’s being made in stem cell research overall, it’s probably closer to reality than most people know.
Yes, regrowing hair with lasers. Sure, it sounds like a bad science fiction novel — and an implausible one at that. There’s no way this could possibly work.
Think again. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is now being used in a variety of conditions. In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already approved several devices designed to shine specific wavelengths of light on the head at specific intensities, and there’s evidence that they actually do work to stimulate the growth of hair. Many are now available at doctors’ offices, where you wear a hat or helmet that shines the laser on your scalp. The best part about this treatment is that it’s side-effect free.
Robots Doing Surgery
Seriously? First lasers, and now robotic surgery? What kind of futuristic utopia is this?
Follicular unit extraction (FUE), in which individual grafts of one or a few follicles are taken from a large number of sites in the hairy part of the scalp, followed by inserting the grafts into the bald sections of the scalp, works well for most patients. However, the downside is that it’s extremely labor-intensive, requiring a high degree of technical skill and a long time to perform. If only a robot were available that could harvest the grafts.
Well, a robot can’t do the surgery all by itself (yet). But there are already robotic surgical assistants available that can help doctors harvest the many grafts needed to perform a hair transplant with FUE. Some surgeons who previously felt that FUE was too labor-intensive are now performing it using these devices. And as the robotic technology advances, the robots will take over more and more of the surgery, making hair transplant surgery safer, faster, and cheaper.
Until one day, the robots do the surgery all by themselves, and you can go visit Dr. X7B2000 for your hair transplant surgery consultation…
Okay, that last part is science fiction.
The Future is Bright!
The innovations coming down the pipeline in the field of hair replacement are exciting. And the present is exciting too. If you’re experiencing hair loss, and suffering from the attendant loss of confidence, there are procedures available that might restore your youthful hairline, helping you feel more vibrant. So there’s no need to wait — go ahead and explore your options!