Category Archives: Person to Person Hair Transplants

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.

Face, Organ and Limb Transplants and Immunosuppressants

For many years, I have followed news in the fields of organ transplantation, limb transplantation, face transplantation and hair transplantation with keen interest.  Each year, achievements in those fields become evermore impressive.  More significantly, scientists and doctors in countries as dispersed as China, India, Japan, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the US all seem to produce some groundbreaking results and innovations in the field of transplantation.

While most countries do not have sizable local biotech, nanotech and other new-age industries, the vast majority of countries in the world 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, thus enabling local doctors and surgeons to gain significant experience in 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 and the world’s first one was done in Spain in 2010.  China has also achieved some significant milestones in face transplants, and is supposedly the first country where a penis transplant was successfully undertaken (albeit the patient did not want it after all that hard work)!  You can read about the latest developments in Japan towards the bottom of this post.

Person-to-Person Hair Transplants and Immunosupressive Drugs

One of the questions that often comes up in hair loss forums is why people with significant balding and limited donor hair can not get hair transplants in which the donor hair comes from another person (recently dead or alive I presume)?  The reason given is that in order for such a procedure to be successful, one would have to take immunosupressive drugs (i.e., anti-rejection medicine) for a lifetime. This is not a risk worth taking for a cosmetic problem such as hair loss, even if for some people, this is more than a cosmetic concern. Perhaps person-to-person hair transplants are also far more complex if each hair being moved is classified as a unique organ!?

Like almost anyone else, I always felt (and still feel) that taking immunosupressive drugs to get hair transplanted from another person was foolish.  However, recently, I started getting curious as to how dangerous these immunosupressive drugs really are.  Do people below the age of say 65 die more frequently from diseases and infections after organ transplantation because their immune systems become weaker when they are on immunosupressants?

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 immunosupressants are often even prescribed for problems such as Eczema and Psoriasis for people with severe cases of these skin cell disorders.

Interesting Organ, Limb and Face Transplant Results and Stories

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 immunosuppresant drugs throughout his/her life (albeit 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

Cleveland Clinic’s second full face transplant procedure performed in 2014

Coming next:

Japanese researchers say bone and tissue bioprinting a year away

3D printed artificial organs for transplant

How we will put an end to organ donation shortages