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A New Approach To Treating Hair Loss

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#1 Bill

Bill

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 08:17 AM

A new report highlights a novel way for doctors to replace thinning hairlines: transplanting leg hair.

The report, a study of two cases published in The Archives of Dermatology, describes a new procedure in which receding hairlines were restored by taking hair follicles from patients’ legs and grafting them to the head.

Men’s leg hair had successfully been transplanted before to the back of the head, but these are believed to be the first documented cases of leg hair being used to restore the hairline.

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The procedure has the potential to restore the hairlines of millions of men with male pattern baldness, the most common cause ofhair loss and often an enormous source of stress. The condition, also called androgenic alopecia, typically begins at the hairline and eventually creates a horseshoe-shaped pattern of hair around the ears. It stems from a sensitivity — largely genetic — to the effects of hormones on hair follicles.

In traditional transplants, hair follicles are taken from an area that runs an inch or two above the ears and temples to the back of the head. Dermatologists can transplant follicles from this area – called the safe donor zone because hair follicles there are impervious to the hormones that cause hair loss – to the front of the head without worrying that the hair that grows from them will fall out.

But hair that comes from the back of the head is typically much coarser than the fine hair that grows in front.

“If you look at a natural hairline, it’s very soft, like baby hair,” said Dr. Sanusi Umar, an associate instructor of dermatology at the medical school of the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of the new report. “The back of the head is where you find the thickest hair on the head. If you take that hair and use it in the hairline, it can end up looking harsh and pluggy, because the hair is too thick.”

Dr. Umar was inspired to develop the procedure in part from personal experience. In 1996, as a medical internist with thinning hair, he underwent a traditional hair transplant procedure but was unhappy with the results. “That inspired me to go into dermatology,” he said.

After reading a 2008 report showing it was possible for transplanted leg hair to survive and grow naturally on the back of a man’s head, Dr. Umar realized its potential to create softer, more natural-looking hairlines. “If you transplant leg hair on the head, it’s not going to start acting like head hair. It will still grow shorter and slower than scalp hair,” he said.

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