Physician Answered Q & As

Biocompatible Protein Polymers For Hair Transplant Use

I am a student doing research on biocompatible protein polymers. This is a cosmetic question concerning the problem of baldness in both men and women. With the new field of biocompatible polymers opening up, why cant they be made into hair-like strands, and implanted under the scalp without the fear of rejection taking place. The problems with real hair transplantation is that there is never quite enough donor area to acquire the desired thickness on the top of the head, and this would eliminate the problem. Of course predetermined length and style would come into it, but that isnt a real problem. Tissue would grow to the polymers and anchor the hair like the real article. Today micro-grafts allow for a single hair to be implanted and this polymer concept could give a nice hairline. It would never have to be dyed, unless desired. Plus it would be protein based as is the real hair.

The use of new polymers purported to be “biocompatible” certainly sparks the imagination. I applaud ANY student who can think out of the box by looking for real-world applications for a new material. Such thinking is rare indeed and should be encouraged.

Unfortunately, there is usually huge chasm between interesting new materials developed in the lab and practical application in day to day life. Think high temperature superconductors and nano-machines.

Specifically, there are a few problems with your idea as I see it.

1. “Biocompatibility” does not necessarily mean “total” compatibility. You may find that the duration of the immune system’s indifference to the material may be quite limited in an actual human body.

2. Polymer is tough, but even the toughest artificial strands of hair will ultimately break making it necessary to repeat implantation time and time again. This would scar the scalp up to the point of serious disfigurement.

3. Because the polymer hair doesn’t actually grow it will become worn down and dirty. This change in appearance will become very apparent and ultimately the faux hair will have to be removed. This is why people don’t wear wigs 24 hours per day.

It’s a good thought, and perhaps you might be the one who created the technology to make that bridge between the lab and the real-world. Keep experimenting and dreaming. Eventually you will make an actual discovery or invent something useful that will not only give you fulfillment, but the rest of humanity as well.


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