Category Archives: Immunosuppressants

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.

Allogeneic Hair Transplant Success

One of the most common questions that people suffering from hair loss ask is why one cannot perform a hair transplant from one person to another? i.e., an allogeneic hair transplant.

If this were possible, it would essentially be a hair loss cure. There would be no shortage of people with stellar hairlines that would be willing to donate a fraction or their hair to balding men and women for a decent price. My father would give me some of his for free.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue with person-to-person hair transplants is rejection of foreign material. The only way to overcome this problem would be via the recipient taking immunosuppressants for life, which is potentially very dangerous.

Allogeneic Hair Transplant Success: No Immunosuppressants

A few days ago, it was announced that researchers from Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) had successfully conducted an allogeneic hair transplant without the use of immunosuppressants. The research team was led by Professor Kwon Oh-sang.

Professor Kwon Oh-sang
Allogeneic hair transplant researcher Dr. Kwon Oh-sang.

While this particular success involved 24 mice-to-mice hair transplants rather than person-to-person hair transplants, it is still absolutely groundbreaking.

Moreover, the mice immune systems were “humanized” via hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Nevertheless, this story was not covered by any newspapers or online publications in the western world. No idea why as some of them (especially the superficial Daily Mail) have excellent coverage of groundbreaking hair related stories.

Normal hair transplants as we know them are autologous. Meaning that a person has his own grafts moved from his donor site to his recipient site. Allogeneic hair transplants are an entirely different animal.

Remove the Dendritic Cells

In this latest South Korean research, the scientists overcame immune system rejection of donor hair by eliminating dendritic cells. The team used ultraviolet B radiation to remove all the donor dendritic cells that were present in the donor hair follicles.

Interestingly, the scientists point out that hair follicles are less likely to be rejected by the immune system than other organs such as the heart, kidney and so on. In this regard, hair follicles are a bit like the cornea in terms of immune privilege.

According to the team, hair follicles are independent organs present in the skin and have an “immune privilege” that is relatively free from immune rejection. As the brain and cornea also have this privilege, the team could reproduce the same state of hair follicles that existed in people’s bodies by removing the donor dendritic cells involved in direct antigen presentation.

According the Dr. Oh-sang, such an allogeneic hair transplant procedure will be challenging to apply in practice when it comes to humans. However, this discovery does create new potential applications that were not possible before.

I wonder if he plans to start experimenting with part-autologous and part-allogeneic hair transplant procedures in humans in the near future? Most likely, donors will be selected via Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) matching.

Also of Interest:

First ever skull and scalp transplant.

— Face, organ, and limb transplants: and immunosuppressive drugs.