Person to Person Hair Transplants Revisited

Modern hair transplants generally produce quality results. However, the biggest disadvantage of hair transplants remains the fact that people have limited donor hair at the back of their scalps in the safe “permanent” zone.  Men with large bald areas will usually not get great results from a hair transplant unless their coverage expectations are modest and they do not mind seeing barren scalp on days when their hair becomes wet in the rain or disheveled by the wind.

Because of this lack of sufficient donor hair supply, one would wonder why person to person hair transplants have not become more common?  The obvious and most cited explanation from hair transplant surgeons is that due to the requirement of taking anti-rejection medications (immunosuppressants) for life, person to person hair transplants are almost never approved. Taking immunosuppressants for life carries significant health risks, although from what I have read in numerous organ transplant stories, no-one seems to be dying from this and people monitor themselves daily when taking such drugs.  I wonder how many people below the age of 60 die from the side effects of taking immunosuppressants?  Moreover, it seems like physicians are getting closer and closer to weaning organ recipients off of immunosuppressants entirely!  That would be a miracle.

In any case, even if proven to be very safe with a great chance of getting weaned off them in the long run, I would still not want to take such drugs just to get more scalp hair.  Therefore I was not planning on writing a post about person to person hair transplants due to their being unlikely to ever become popular…..until yesterday, when I reread the summary of a groundbreaking experiment from 1999 by Dr. Colin Jahoda on his wife Dr. Amanda Reynolds.

Dr. Jahoda transplanted several of his scalp hairs to Dr. Reynolds arm, and four hairs then grew on Dr. Reynolds arm.  I had heard and read about this well known experiment numerous times in the past, but forgot to ever check if Dr. Reynolds took immunosuppressants. Then I read the below in the above linked article and felt like a lightening bolt struck me:

Apart from its theoretical use in cosmetic medicine, the experiment reveals that hair follicles are one of the rare tissues apparently capable of being transplanted from one body to another without rejection. Why evolution has endowed them with such “immune privilege” is a mystery.

This makes me wonder why more surgeons have not attempted person to person scalp hair to scalp hair transplants?  In one of my past posts where I briefly mentioned person to person hair transplants, one commentator suggested that you could never get another living person to donate his/her hair to you.  I think that is absolutely incorrect.  If I had a very full thick head of hair and someone offered me say $100,000 to donate 20 percent of my scalp hair, I would be more than happy to do it (especially if the hair is taken from the back).  If it were a good friend or family member, I would probably do it for free.

Going back to the above article, it seems like Dr. Jahoda transferred dermal sheath cells rather than actual hair, even though full hairs were extracted from Dr. Jahoda’s scalp prior to extraction of the dermal sheath cells from them via the use of a powerful microscope. Dr. Jahoda holds a patent on this procedure, and I might contact him to see what came of it.  He did have some doubts about the hair cycling normally or not after one round of shedding was over.

Although I was excited by this new finding on my part after re-reading the summary of the Jahoda experiment, considering that it all happened in 1999, I think there must be some sound explanation behind person to person transplants never taking off.

I nevertheless did some more googling on this, and came across an interesting comment from 2009 that is pasted below.  Usually I do not like to quote comments from internet based forum members, but this one from Marion Landan on the regrowhair site seems somewhat legitimate and sincere to me:

Just want to correct what you are saying about hair transplanting from another person. The people do not have to be identical twins or even related to one another. I have been told by a retiring hair transplant expert who tried some of these surgeries that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Just as there was a learning curve for transfusing blood, there are things not understood about why hair can be transplanted sometimes from an unrelated donor, and sometimes can’t even be transplanted between identical twins (possibly with the twins the bald brother had an infection that caused his original hair loss, after transplantation from his brother, his head swelled up and rejected the new hair). I have also been told that hair transplanting between people was made illegal in the United States several years ago — so doctors no longer try it.

Why would this have been made illegal?  Were there serious side effects involved?

Also interesting: if you get someone else’s bone marrow, you can also get their scalp hair.

Also interesting: from 2007, the famous facial transplant surgeon Maria Siemionow thinks it will soon be possible to transplant an entire scalp from a dead person to a live one, and it might just require a limited time on immunosupressants.  Half of Dr. Siemionow’s prediction came true in 2015 (see next sentence below).

And also interesting right from this blog: first ever skull and scalp transplant.

Finally, it seems like there are certain commonalities between donor and recipient that might increase the likelihood of survival of organs and tissues after a transplant.  These can include blood type, certain common genes and more.   Transplant survival rates with or without anti-rejection medication will continue to improve as researchers uncover more details regarding such issues.

17 thoughts on “Person to Person Hair Transplants Revisited”

  1. The reason is that very few doctors actually care about this! since the condition is neither life threatening nor painful. I think it’s as simple as that.

      1. Because it’s not that simple, the body DOES reject hair follicle, however, it doesn’t seem to reject the dermal papillae transplanted however, and it is not yet well studied. But since, a therapy based on that involves taking each hair follicle and separating the dermal sheath or papillae, and transplanting it back, it needs lots of labour and is therefore not desired by industry as a solution. It’s tempting, however, if some one could be able to fully clone the dermal papillae, there might be no need to take any section from anyone, and one could just go buy the kind of hair they like off the shelf and transplant it in far future. but, yet, even though it’s possible to transplant hair from other people it is not in the interest of the doctors!

  2. The idea of someone else’s hair on my head grosses me out. I may be in the minority feeling that way, but I feel the same way about transplanting body hair to the scalp, Blech! Also, wouldn’t there be a concern about the hair on the sides and back not matching the foreign donor transplanted hair on top? The color and texture would be different no matter how close a match you could get to another and could look bizarre. Just my opinion of course.

    1. Haha I was certain someone would point out the grossness factor. I would not be grossed out if I got the hair from someone who I felt was “clean”….of course no-one is clean at the biological level, but I can’t help being superficial.

      Regarding the texture, at least in my case, various parts of my scalp have had different hair texture ever since I first started balding slowly. The worst is the area above the ears if I let it go for a few weeks. Prior to any balding, my whole scalp had the same silky texture. So now I do not care if I have a full head of hair and some parts are of a different texture to others, as I am used to it.

      Regarding color, I can find 100s of millions of men (not an exaggeration) with the exact same black hair color as mine. If you are a blonde or redhead, you will have less choice.

      1. Ah true, I also figured it wouldn’t bother others as much as it bothers me. Sometimes I think the only solution I’d be happy with is an ideal one which could be a tad unrealistic.

        Regarding color, unfortunately for me, my natural hair and beard color are multiple colors intermixed so conventional dye would never work well for me…but here’s hoping for better treatments all around!

  3. That’s another interesting procedure analysis.
    Bearing in mind that hair transplant, though the “golden standard” nowadays in hair restoration, is still a “cut and paste” approach to us, we are quite sure that being able to completely engineer existing follicles could be a cleaner and more complete solution. Still, it could just be another weapon, leading to better and better techniques.
    Thank you again for your effort!

  4. damn i didn’t realize my limits until this, would i feel cool having a dead guys hair growing on my head, telling my friends and family, no way.

  5. It has been noted innumerable times that many of us who suffer from male baldness are also possessing copious amounts of body hair.

    Isn’t this the most direct route toward adequate donor supply?

    Now I’ve heard all the excuses about why this wouldn’t work: the hairs are too short/curly (not always true); they won’t have matching texture (so what); they won’t grow in the right direction (still better than nothing); many of them will be rejected (it’s ok, we have plenty).

    I really think–although this is just a hypothesis–that aggressive use of body hair transplantation is the nearest route at hand to get us to the non-baldheaded promised land.

    Thoughts? Objections?

    1. Hello Misery,
      several videos on youtube seem to describe such effort. The idea could be viable, but we still deem that to be a ‘partial’ solution, since we believe that every kind of transplant would damage/disrupt/displace existing head hair follicles, miniaturized due to AGA. In a few years, when a more complete therapy is finalized, these follicles could be targeted with the ‘ultimate’ solution. But then again, it absolutely COULD be a fix, updated to what is available today. Would love to hear what the admin thinks about it!

      1. Tolga:

        In general 1 out of 4 individuals who undergo a non-beard body hair transplant get a cosmetically improved result. Failures include yields of zero %, very fine hair and sparse growth. Even though beard hair transplants produce good cosmetic coverage, some patients do not like the coarse, curly nature of the hair. This contrast in appearance can be quite striking when the scalp hair is fine and straight and beard hair is coarse and curly.

    2. It also would leave too many scars on the body. Body hair doesn’t grow as densely as head hair and the FUE scars wouldn’t be able to be hidden as easily.

  6. This is getting g ridiculous! These stupid pharmaceutical companies should have a solution to baldness by now. 2015 and we are talking about dead people hsir wtf. Either they can’t find anything that works or they have a good treatment and are holding on to it with no release due to corporate bs

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