Three more years…
For much of my life I’ve been waiting for this moment. Even throughout my youth I glanced at the hairlines of relatives and wondered what would become of me. At the same time I figured medical science would have to have developed something by the time my hair would start falling out.
However, as I entered my thirties and began to look more and more like an octopus was attacking me when my hair got wet, there still seemed to be no true cure for baldness on the horizon. They were out there cloning sheep and growing ears on the backs of mice, but they still couldn’t give me a little action up top.
And just as I raised my razor to go the Bruce Willis route, a ray of hope shone on my news feed. It said that the cure to baldness actually lies inside me and my delicious stem cells, and that the key to unlocking it would be available in just three more years…
This isn’t some chemical treatment with only a chance of working and slew of side-effects. Nor is this some implant or transplant requiring you to take a leap of faith in your doctor’s artistic sensibilities. It’s a method to kickstart your own hair roots to work like they used to back when people were making money with rock music.
First medical staff will take some cells to reprogram as induced pluripotent stem cells, the scientific breakthrough that won Shinya Yamanaka the Nobel Prize and a fancy new washing machine back in 2012. At the moment it seems fibroblasts are the go-to ones for the job. These can be found in joints and scar tissue. That sounds a wee bit painful but there is already research into alternative methods such as getting them from urine.
▼ Animated gif of how iPS cells are made…or something. We hope you enjoy trying to figure this out as much as we did.
Then doctors will remove a piece of your scalp a few millimeters in diameter and just as deep as your roots. This will yield a small sample of the cells which trigger hair growth. If you’re like me, that sample will probably look something like a sleepy mule swatting at flies with its tail.
However, after the iPS cells do their thing it will light up like that episode of Pokémon that gave kids seizures. In other words, the number of active hair growth cells will go from the order of tens to millions. One downside is that this cell multiplication will take a few months, but hey, we’ve waited this long haven’t we?
After that the new cells are injected back into your scalp, which then receives the order to grow hair anew and starts pushing out luscious locks! You can now go through life knowing that the object of your affection was actually ignoring you all that time not because of your thinning hair but because you’re a horrible person. Hooray for that!
Here was the reaction online to the news.
“My insurance won’t cover that, and it’s sure to cost millions.”
“So rich people will get thick hair in 2018, and us poor sometime around 2030.”
“I’ll increase your hair as well as your risk for cancer.”
“When it gets too easy to do, it’ll probably become cool to be bald.”
The aforementioned treatment is on track for testing throughout this year. It’s being headed by Japanese cosmetic company Shiseido and scheduled to be commercially available in 2018. It’s also just among the first signs of the highly lucrative regenerative medicine business including a treatment for post-stroke effects such as paralysis expected to be ready in 2020 and even more serious life-saving procedures from there.
So, this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the usefulness of iPS cells, but for hundreds of millions of men and women it’s one hell of a tip!