At the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery’s scientific convention in Las Vegas last month, Maria Siemionow, MD, a transplantation expert who is renowned for her groundbreaking work in the field of facial transplants, presented research that suggested that full-scalp transplants from cadavers to burn or trauma victims may be a reality in the near future.

Siemionow said her team at The Cleveland Clinic has developed a treatment in lab animals that reduces the length of time any recipient must be on immunosuppressant drugs to only 1 week. Today, the recipient of any transplant must stay on toxic and expensive medication for life, which makes it untenable to do transplants for anything less then life-essential organs. It remains untested in humans.

"What she’s talking about has implications for the future in our field in terms of perhaps being able to move hair from one person to another," says Vance Elliott, MD, a hair restoration surgeon in Canada. "We’ve always considered that impossible because the immune system rejects it."

Diagnosing women with pattern balding is more challenging because it usually occurs as an overall thinning rather than in the predictable manner that most men experience, says Sharon Ann Keene, MD, a hair-restoration surgeon in Tucson, Ariz. Also, women can experience temporary shedding caused by anemia, heavy-metal poisoning, and hormone fluctuations, whereas male balding is permanent and almost entirely a function of genetics. Keene says that many physicians don’t know what to look for in women or are too overwhelmed to be bothered.

"I get ladies who go to the dermatologist and are told that they’re just stressed out or that it’s not a real problem like, say, skin cancer," says Keene. "It is a tremendous untapped market."

[www.usatoday.com, October 11, 2007]