Controversial hair cloning procedure could be headed for US

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Ric Ortega has dealt with hair loss for a while. For him, it's a health concern.

"I'm outside a lot because I work in the construction industry, and I worry about skin cancer on the top of my head," Ortega said.

Ortega is considering a hair cloning clinical trial with Irvine hair restoration specialist Dr. Ken Williams.
He's working with Hair Clone, a British company that believes it will perfect the science of cloning hair.

"The typical candidate would be someone who has had multiple surgeries and can't have any more hair transplantations, but they have lots of areas of balding," said Williams, who is a surgeon at Orange County Hair Restoration.

Doctors harvest 50 hair follicles and send them to a cryopreservation tank in England. Surgeons there remove the hair shaft from the bulb, which holds cells that control growth. Then the cells are multiplied in a special cell culture.

"Then, when the patient is ready, they have the actual transplantation. They would let us know and we'd go through the process of replication, and getting those 50 cells will now turn in to 1500 cells," said Williams.

The trial would cost Ortega between $4,000 and $10,000 plus airfare to England, where he'd get his cloned hair. England is the only western country that allows this type of treatment.

"With rodents, we know it works. Right now, we have that. The biggest challenge is can we translate that now to human beings?" said Williams.

Critics point out that cells that induce hair replication may also induce tumors and once this issue is resolved, the FDA still must approve hair cloning for safety and effectiveness.

There are plans for clinical trials based in the U.S.
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