Sometimes the poor health of the donor area of the patient’s scalp makes it impossible for them to undergo a hair transplant surgery. The prospect is disheartening and causes hopelessness in the patient.
Affecting millions of men and women, many androgenetic alopecia patients seek this surgery. However, finding out that it isn’t possible can make one feel extremely sad and even depressed. Naturally, it makes one wonder, if organ transplant has become possible in the medical world, why not hair follicle transplant?
If possible, an allogeneic hair transplant (taking hair follicles from another person) could become the next big thing. Unfortunately, it is not a possibility at the moment. However, there is some promising research. Traditional hair transplant surgery can permanently deal with hair loss, but some patients simply don’t have enough hair in the donor area to undergo the procedure.
Hair loss in the donor area can occur as a result of genetics, hormones, chemotherapy. etc. Therefore, many people wish that person-to-person hair follicle donation was a possibility. It certainly wouldn’t seem that complicated a procedure. But many problems can arise if another person donates hair follicles.
Is It Possible to Transplant Hair From Another Person?
Unfortunately, hair follicle donation from another person is not impossible. The reason why it cannot happen is that the roots of your hair have a unique genetic makeup. It is different from another person. If the surgeon embeds the hair follicle from another person, your body will know that it is foreign DNA.
Once your body knows that the hair follicles have someone else’s genetic code, it will reject it. Rejection means that the immune system identifies the new tissue as a “foreigner.” It classifies it as an “invader” and attacks it.
Thus, it launches an attack against them. It will, most likely, result in the death of the donated hair follicles. This will result in the failure of the surgery. Not just that, but the implantation of hair follicles can leave behind thousands of tiny scars. You’ll end up wasting your time and money, which is why this type of hair restoration surgery does not take place.
The surgeon will take hair follicles from either your donor region on the scalp or hair on other areas of your body. However, hair on different areas of your body grows differently from the hair on your scalp. This is why you don’t hear much about this surgical option either.
Is the Transplantation of Hair Follicles From an Identical Twin Successful?
There is one instance in which hair transplant donor hair from another person can result in success. For that, you have to be an identical twin.
It is possible for hair follicle donation to get accepted from the scalp of your identical twin. Monozygotic twins are identical. They develop from one zygote, which splits to form two embryos. Therefore, such twins are genetically nearly identical. The similar genetic makeup of the cells in the hair root will not make the body think that it’s an invader.
Because of the shared genetic codes, the body won’t perceive the newly transplanted hair follicles as a threat. Therefore, it would accept those as a part of the self. Only there is one problem:
If you’re suffering from androgenetic alopecia, there’s a very high chance that your twin will be experiencing the same. Therefore, they may not be able to donate in such an instance.
And in the case of dizygotic twins, this kind of donation won’t result in the success of the surgery as the twins do not share the same genes. The eggs, in this case, get fertilized by different sperms, which makes them different.
Can I Get Hair Transplant From Another Person On Taking Immunosuppressants?
Some people wonder, “Can you use someone else’s hair for transplant on taking drugs that suppress the immune response? This is a hypothetical question. In the case of organ transplants, patients may have to take immunosuppressants for life to avoid organ rejection. However, can the same be done for hair transplants?
The side effects of taking immunosuppressants for the rest of your life are too much to bear. When you’re taking these drugs, the ability of your body to fight diseases will take a serious hit. With your immune system weakened, you are prone to developing more infections. It may even become more difficult to treat them.
Soon after the surgery, you’ll have open wounds on your scalp that need to heal as quickly as possible to avoid bad scarring, infection, and prolonged healing. Being on these drugs can cause all of these problems and result in failure of the surgery. Therefore, hair follicle donation is not recommended by doctors.
Keep in mind that in the case of organ transplants, immunosuppressants are life-saving. Due to hair loss not being a life-threatening condition, it isn’t considered worth the risk of weakening the immune system of an individual.
Can Hair from Other Parts of the Body Be Used for Hair Transplant?
A surgeon may recommend this over person-to-person hair follicle donation. If the hair cannot be taken from the scalp of the patient, the surgeon might recommend this option.
However, the problem with this technique is that the hair quality in different areas of the body is different. The hair texture and quality on the head can differ from, say, the hair on your limbs, eyelashes, eyebrows, and even your beard. The growth potential of hair also varies.
If this hair is transplanted on your scalp, it might look quite unnatural and even unattractive. You might end up feeling dissatisfied with the results of your hair transplant. Usually, beard hair gets taken for this purpose as it is similar to the hair on the scalp. However, due to the many problems that result in a low hair graft survival rate, it’s not considered worth it.
Allogeneic Hair Transplant: Will It Ever Take Place Successfully?
Currently, autologous hair transplant is prevalent. This is the one in which the follicles get taken from the back and/or sides of the patient’s scalp. These get transferred to the balding regions.
In contrast, an allogeneic hair transplant takes hair follicles from other people. But the problem with it lies in the rejection of the hair follicles. If the patient wants to avoid that, they have to take anti-rejection drugs. This can have seriously damaging health consequences.
To deal with this conundrum, there has been some promising research done by Professor Kwon Oh-sang and his team from Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) in Korea.
To ensure the success of allogeneic hair transplants, the team of researchers focused on dendritic cells in the human body. They play an important role in anti-tumour responses by the body. These dendritic cells get the T-cells to attack the tumours. T-cells are also primarily responsible for organ transplant rejection.
Therefore, the researchers tried to find a way in which this T-cell response was not activated on the transplantation of hair follicles. For the purposes of the research, 24 humanized mice were used (mice with human genes, tissues, or cells, etc.). They got irradiated with ultraviolet B. This removed the dendritic cells that were present in the donor hair follicles area.
Afterwards, the researchers performed an allogenic hair transplant. This was successful as it resulted in the growth of new hair. Moreover, the transplanted hair follicles also survived for more than 6 months.
This sounds promising enough, but the research on allogeneic hair transplant is still in its infancy. There’s a need to know about its long-term success rate and side effects. This information is important for the surgery to take place on humans successfully.
Summing It All Up
Presently, a donor hair transplant from another person cannot take place successfully. The rejection of the hair follicles by the patient’s body certainly makes it impossible for the surgery to be successful. The intake of immunosuppressants for this purpose isn’t considered worth the risk since hair loss isn’t life-threatening.
At present, identical twins can benefit from it. However, if hair loss is due to androgenetic alopecia, both twins will suffer from it. This would not make the surgery possible. A patient can sustain the results of an allogenic hair transplant if they choose to take immunosuppressants for the rest of their lives.
However, the side effects of these medicines do not make them a suitable option. It isn’t considered worth the risk since hair loss isn’t life-threatening. This is a reason why doctors don’t recommend it. However, research on innovative techniques for allogeneic hair transplant can make it a reality in the future. One animal model study has been promising.
If a hair transplant is not possible for you, you can discuss other treatment options with your doctor. These can include minoxidil and finasteride. Many people also wear wigs, extensions or have scalp micropigmentation to hide the balding areas on their scalp. So, you shouldn’t lose hope entirely.
You should not determine the health of your donor area on your own. Make sure to consult a hair transplant surgeon to find out if you can benefit from restoration surgery after all.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.