The quest to treat hair loss is far older than most people realize. Even though the hair restoration treatments that we use at The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research are among the most advanced anywhere, they are grounded in decades or research and experimentation. In fact, historical records reveal that the science of hair restoration actually goes back to the very beginnings of civilization itself. Both the ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks had different remedies that they commonly prescribed to patients suffering from hair loss. However, what we think of as modern hair transplantation surgery did not really get started until the early part of the twentieth century.
The Early Days
Although the first recorded use of experimental surgery to treat baldness actually dates back to a paper published by German professor Dom Unger in 1822, the surgical techniques that are really at the heart of modern hair transplantation were first developed in Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Dr. S. Okuda, a Japanese dermatologist, successfully took scalp grafts of hair-bearing skin from hair-bearing areas and transplanted them to correct hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows and upper lip. After World War Two, his techniques gradually came to the attention of doctors outside of Japan, where they could be further developed and refined.
The 1950s through 1980s
The earliest forms of hair loss surgery involved moving large flaps of skin from one area of the scalp to another, but these were usually only used to cover scars or trauma and resulted in unnatural looking results. Hair transplantation for common genetic pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, was not used until 1959 when Dr. Norman Orentreich discovered that hair follicles taken from areas of the scalp that are not affected by thinning will continue to grow even if they are transplanted into areas that are so affected. This “donor-dominance” theory became the basis for all modern hair transplantation techniques because it means that hair transplanted to bald areas will continue to grow just like it did in its original donor area.
The 1980’s through Today
Dr. Orentreich’s discovery revolutionized the way doctors approached hair loss with transplantation, but his technique still left much to be desired. Large “plugs,” containing about twenty hair follicles and roughly the size and shape of a pencil eraser, were taken from the scalp and transplanted in straight rows, creating an unnatural-looking “doll’s head” appearance. Over the next twenty years, surgeons worked on transplanting progressively smaller grafts until B.L. Limmer introduced the follicular unit grafting (FUG) technique, which uses a stereo-microscope to dissect a single donor strip into hundreds of small follicular unit grafts, each consisting of one to four (and sometimes even five) individual hair follicles. Further refinements in this technique allow surgeons at The Griffin Center to safely harvest large numbers of viable follicular units with only minimal scarring, making follicular unit grafting the best choice for patients who need significant coverage.
In recent years, advancements in technology have given patients suffering from hair loss more options than ever before. The latest follicular unit extraction (FUE) technology makes it possible to remove and transplant follicular units individually, making hair transplantation more attractive to those who like to wear their hair extremely short or who cannot tolerate a linear scar. This is also the technique of choice for those with very curly hair, like many African-American patients. Additionally, advanced non-surgical hair restoration treatments like platelet rich plasma (PRP) and red light laser therapy can help slow or even reverse the progression of hair loss and help maintain hair transplantation results. Finally, oral and topical medications for the treatment and prevention of progressive hair loss have reached new heights of efficacy in the last decade. If you are interested in learning more about your hair restoration options, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to get the latest news or contact The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration so that we can schedule an appointment for a full consultation.