Category Archives: Face Transplant

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.

Immunosuppressants and Face and Organ Transplants

For many years, I have followed news in the fields of organ transplantation, limb transplantation and face transplantation with keen interest. Each year, achievements in those fields become evermore impressive. The use of immunosuppressants is also becoming safer and more strategic.

Scientists and doctors in countries as dispersed as China, India, Japan, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the US all seem to be producing groundbreaking results and innovations in the field of transplantation.

Worldwide Face, Organ and Limb Transplants

Most developing countries do not have sizable local biotech and other new-age industries. However, the vast majority have numerous hospitals, usually including at least several world class ones. Poor citizens in third world countries often have no choice other than to get transplants at local hospitals. This enables local doctors and surgeons to gain significant experience in organ transplantation.

In the field of heart transplantation, India is especially important. In the field of full face transplantation, while the US leads the way, Turkey is also very important. The world’s first face transplant was done in Spain in 2010. China has also achieved some significant milestones in face transplants. It is supposedly also the first country where a penis transplant was successfully undertaken. Unfortunately, the patient did not want it after all that hard work and stress! You can read about the latest developments in Japan towards the bottom of this post.

One frequent question on hair loss forums is why people with significant balding and limited donor hair do not get hair transplants in which the donor hair comes from another person. Update: see allogeneic hair transplantation success.

The reason given is that in order for such a procedure to be successful, one would have to take immunosuppressive drugs (i.e., anti-rejection medicine) for a lifetime. This is not a risk worth taking for a cosmetic problem such as hair loss. Perhaps person-to-person hair transplants are also far more complex, since each hair being moved is a unique organ?

Immunosuppressants after Organ Transplants

Like almost anyone else, I feel that taking immunosuppressive drugs to get hair transplanted from another person was foolish. However, recently, I started getting curious as to how dangerous these immunosuppressive drugs really turn out to be.

Do people below the age of 65 die more frequently from diseases and infections after organ transplantation? Is it because their immune systems become weaker when they are on immunosuppressants?

Although I could not find too much information on fatalities, there are quite a few sites with warnings about side effects of taking these drugs. A large number of side effects are not especially dangerous, but there are some warnings of potential higher risks of cancer. However, this correlation with higher rates of cancer is not entirely clear cut.

One surprising thing I found was that immunosuppressants are often even prescribed for problems such as Eczema and Psoriasis for people with severe cases of these skin cell disorders.

It should also be noted that scientists have increasingly improved strategies in having organ transplant recipients taper off high-dose immunosuppressants. Not to mention the availability of new drugs, biologics and immunosupresssants.

Interesting Organ, Limb and Face Transplant Results

The duration of time for which organ transplants last has in general gone up for all organ types over the years. Some of the unexpectedly long-lasting results are particularly interesting. Especially when considering that the patient has to take immunosuppressant drugs throughout his or her life. Usually at a lower dose after the first year or so post transplant.

Some of my favorite recent transplant related stories:

British grandmother whose new kidney was still going strong 40 years post transplant as of 2014.

When it comes to the heart, Dick Cheney should be inspirational to all. Money and access to great surgeons helps of course. But rather then being envious, for the sake of science I hope that this man lives many more years. A good post transplant interview with Cheney.

US man with rare double hand transplant in 2010 still going strong five years later.

Heart transplant at the age of 2, still here at 32 as of 2014.

British man breaks world record in 2013 after surviving 31 years post heart transplant.

US face transplant recipient Mitch Hunter’s excellent Reddit “Ask Me Anything.” Also see photos: Soldier Mitch Hunter.