First ever Skull and Scalp Transplant

The original version of this post (see bottom half) was in relation to the world’s first ever skull and scalp transplant in 2015. I am now updating the post with news of the world’s first African American face transplant in 2019. And the world’s first combined double hand and face transplant in 2021. The first two of these three examples also involved a bonus: brand new scalp hair.

Note that science has now reached a point where taking dangerous immunosuppressants is a lot safer. Moreover, some researchers think that in future we will need minimal to no immunosuppressants. Especially beyond the immediate short-term after surgery.

Make sure to also read my post on the exciting future of allogeneic hair transplants.

First Ever African American Face Transplant in 2019

The world’s first ever face transplant in an African American person (Robert Chelsea) took place in 2019. Later in the year, the news media widely covered his story with amazing after photos. As of 2019, only around 50 face transplants had been performed worldwide.

African Face Transplant
First African Face Transplant.

What is also amazing is that 68-year old Mr. Chelsea grew back a young person’s hairline, with dark pigmented hair from the donor face. While this face transplant did not include a full scalp transplant, it seems like a significant portion of the donor scalp was also transferred during the procedure.

10:40 into the below video:

“Now what looks really different is he has hair”.

First Combination Face and Double Arm Transplant in 2021

In 2021, medical and surgical science made yet another big breakthrough. The surgical team from NYU Langone Health performed a face and double hand transplant for 22-year-old Joe DiMeo. Both of these procedures are extremely rare. A combination of the two is quite astounding. The lead surgeon was Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez.

June 4, 2015

In a recent post, I discussed face, organ and limb transplants and the connection with person to person hair transplants. Unlike with organ transplants that save lives, doctors will never prescribe immunosuppressive drugs to those who are bald and want another (dead or alive) person’s hair.

Immunosuppressants are deemed to be too dangerous to be justifiable for any cosmetic procedure. However, I think that people on immunosuppressants rarely seem to die of related causes, especially if they are not that old. Such patients are carefully monitored and dosages are reduced at the slightest signs of any adverse symptoms.

First Ever Skull and Scalp Transplant in 2015

Scalp and Skull Transplant with Hair
First ever scalp and skull transplant.

In any event, the reason for writing this post is that earlier today, it was announced that a US surgical team led by Dr. Jesse Selber has performed the world’s first ever skull and scalp transplant on a 55-year-old patient named James Boysen in Texas.


2016 Update: See Jim Boysen’s after photos with significant new scalp hair as a bonus.

For most men in their 50s, needing a haircut is a minor inconvenience. For James Boysen, it’s a nice problem to have.

Within days, his doctors marveled to see the transplanted scalp sweat and his hair grow.


Even more impressive, Mr. Boysen also received a new kidney and a new pancreas during the procedure because his old ones (that were also transplants!!) were failing. Mr. Boysen has had diabetes since age 5, and got his first kidney and pancreas transplants in 1992.

Unfortunately for Mr. Boysen, it seems like the immunosuppressant drugs that he had to take since his original organ transplants in 1992 perhaps contributed to him getting a rare type of cancer called leiomyosarcoma on his scalp in 2006. Although this cancer was treated successfully, it left his scalp significantly damaged. He finally got this scalp transplant after waiting for a donor scalp for a few years.

Mr. Boysen’s perseverance in spite of so much adversity and bad luck are truly admirable. The most interesting part of this story is that Mr. Boysen thinks that the new scalp will give him more hair than he had at age 21. This means that he was extremely bald at a very young age. From his after photo with the new scalp, it seems like the hair on the donor scalp has been shaved, but will grow in the coming months. It will be very interesting to see what Mr. Boysen looks like in another 6 months.

Here is the BBC story of this extraordinary development. My favorite version of this story with a video is on the UK’s Daily Mail. It should be noted that 3D printed skull transplants have been occurring since 2014. Just take a look at this one from this week. But this particular case was the first ever human to human skull transplant.

HairClone Follicle Banking and Hair Regrowth

I first covered UK-based HairClone in 2016. Later in the same year, HairClone’s very friendly CEO Dr. Paul Kemp kindly answered a number of reader questions.

Although Dr. Kemp has since been in touch with me, I am reluctant to write more frequent posts on HairClone. I do not want to repeat follicle banking related news unless there is a groundbreaking development in actual hair multiplication. Dr. Kemp was formerly the CEO of Intercytex. I hope he uses his past experiences to prevent another disappointment for us hair loss sufferers.

Update: May 21, 2021

HairClone, Higgins and Hair Research: PhD at Imperial College

HairClone and Dr. Claire Higgins are partnering to sponsor one PhD student for a hair research related opportunity at Imperial College London. A stipend of 18,000 British Pounds will be provided and the program begins in the 2021/2022 year. Thanks to “James” who e-mailed me about this interesting development. Besides Dr. Higgins, the student will also be mentored by Dr. Sylvain Ladame.

According to the announcement, this “advanced therapeutics” related research will consist of two parts:

  1. Develop a microneedle device for the delivery of reprogrammed dermal papilla cells to miniaturized alopecic hair follicles.
  2. Use in-depth computational analysis and in vitro hair follicle modeling. The purpose of this will be to understand the mode of action by which papilla cells rejuvenate hair follicles. And in the process, reverse androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness).

While it is great to see this initiative, it also means that the actual hair multiplication (or cloning) is still a few years away. In any event, I am glad that HairClone is still focusing on an ultimate goal beyond hair follicle banking.

August 4, 2019

HairClone Begins Follicle Banking

In any event, it seems like HairClone has not disbanded or gone silent, but is moving forward full steam. The company is starting its follicle banking service after earlier this week getting UK  government approval. In fact the company will be the world’s first ever hair follicle banking system. Press release: follicle banking.

Edit: In May 2021, a South Korean company named Han Bio also supposedly started hair follicle banking services.

HairClone Follicle Banking.
HairClone’s Hair Follicle Banking Process.

The logic behind banking your currently healthy hair follicles is similar to the logic behind banking young sperm, of your young eggs, or even newborn umbilical cord blood banking.

Both males and females over age 18 will be able to have around 50 follicle units extracted, cryopreserved and stored for future use (when hair multiplication or cloning type treatments are available). Cryopreservation and storage of hair follicles at -150C at essentially “stops the clock” when it comes to further hair loss, thinning or miniaturization.

Dr. Paul Kemp’s Recent E-mail

Dear HLC2020 Admin,

It has been some months since we last chatted, but I just wanted to let you know that we have been working hard. We have now been authorized by the UK’s Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to begin to bank cryopreserved follicles. In order to gain this approval, we had to carry out extensive validation studies to show that we could:

  • Reproducibly extract human follicles.
  • Cryopreserve them.
  • Ship, test and thaw the follicles.
  • Extract viable cells that could be culture expanded.

We first submitted the license application in January and then there were a series of questions. Some of these needed additional work, but the end result is an incredibly well understood robust process.

The HTA stress that this does not authorize or approve treatment and gaining that approval is the next stage in our strategy. We are all set to develop the GMP validation data for culture expanded follicle cells and just need to raise the funds to do so. As you know, we tried to do this through crowdfunding, but unfortunately weren’t successful. So we are looking at alternative funding sources. This has given a significant delay to our original timelines.

Banking will be available through our clinical partners and banking associates who will be licensed procurement centers and we plan to increase the number of these partners and associates over the coming months.

Cryopreservation

Cryopreservation and banking is just the first step in the process but important elements to note are:

  • It will be available to both men and women.
  • Banking will allow multiple treatments from one initial surgery.
  • Banking at the earliest possible stage “stops the clock” on further ageing of the cells.
  • As patients with banked follicles have already undergone the surgery step they will be first in line for cell expansion when treatments are authorized.
  • The follicles remain the property of the patient so could be used in other treatments if the patient prefers.

The next stage is to work with our clinical partners to develop a system to rebuild miniaturizing follicles. Follicular neogenesis is also an interest of ours. We are carrying out some work on this, but our first goal will be to rescue a patient’s natural hairs. As all patients are unique, we envision that this could also be used in the future in combination with hair transplants.

I have attached a press release that provides more information and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions.

Paul Kemp PhD
Co-Founder, Chief Executive Director

www.HairClone.me
@HairClone
#HairClone