Colin Jahoda is a biologist and researcher at Durham University,
in England. On November 3, 1999 Dr Jahoda and his research team
gained worldwide attention by announcing that they had successfully
completed the first ever transplant of scalp cells from one
person to another and, for the first time ever, grew new hair
on a human without the use of drugs.
researchers took tiny circles of hairy skin from Jahoda's scalp
and dissected out the sheath cells surrounding the bulb at the
base of each hair. They then transplanted the sheaths onto the
inner forearm of one of the female researchers, Amanda Reynolds.
three weeks after the implant Reynolds noticed that hairs were
starting to emerge from the region. "Her normal arm hairs are
very fine and pale, and these were relatively large and thicker,"
says Jahoda. "They were also pigmented, darker, and they also
grew in unusual directions." Jahoda admits that some of the
hairs looked lumpy and misshapen rather than smooth. Roughly
41 to 77 days after the graft, when the researchers could be
sure that the cells hadn't been rejected, the cells and hairs
were removed from Reynolds' arm. DNA testing revealed that the
cells contained X and Y chromosomes, indicating that they had
to have come from Jahoda. What Jahoda and his team were able
to demonstrate is that it is possible to create a new hair follicle
by transplanting groups of these cells.
Jahoda says that Reynolds body did not reject the graft because
sheath cells are unusual in being able to fend off attacks by
the immune system. Jahoda now wants to see whether the hairs
are completely normal and if the follicles will continue to
produce hair for the lifetime of the recipient. Although the
research was designed to test whether the graft would be rejected
by the unrelated woman, the researchers were pleased by the
surprising results. "It does show the potential of being able
to induce new hair follicles in human skin which I don't think
has been done before," said study head Colin Jahoda.
Jahoda believes that this technology may have an application
in gene therapy but doubts that it will lead to a hair-loss
treatment. This however does not mean that another researcher
will not use this technology as part of a new technique designed
to clone hairs.