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California lab creating 'cure' for baldness using cell cloning process

Posted at 8:41 PM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 23:26:58-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Scientists in California have spent years developing a new and unique solution for hair loss.

Going thin is a reality that Brian Zegles took years to accept. A Florida hairstylist for nearly two decades, Zegles first noticed a change in his late 20s.

Zegles fears losing it on top could hurt his bottom line.

"If I can prove to them that it actually works for me then I definitely feel that it could be a great option for me," said Zegles.

From pills, to topical creams, and surgery, U.S. consumers spend billions every year on treatments for hair loss.

The latest development in fighting hair loss stems from a lab in La Jolla, California.

Researchers at Stemson Therapeutics are developing a two-part process to turn stem cells into hair follicles.

"We're hoping this will be the breakthrough," says Chief Scientific Officer Alexey Terskikh.

Healthy follicle cells are carefully placed on a tiny, scaffold-like mold made from a 3D printer. The molds help keep the cells intact, transplanting the cells into the skin, telling the hair which direction to grow.

Their technique is different from current hair restoration therapy because it grows new hair cells.

"We have the capability to generate brand new hair follicles," says Stemson CEO Geoff Hamilton. "Imagine transplanting thousands, or tens of thousands of those into a scalp."

Human testing is years away as the company works on receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So far, testing has been proven successful on mice.

"Lots of question marks regarding that," said Dr. Roger Bassin.

Dr. Bassin, of Tampa Hair Restoration Center, says this procedure is a form of cloning and more research needs to be done.

"I tell my patients you might be waiting decades until this becomes something that is mainstream and offered even if it becomes mainstream and offered," said Dr. Bassin.

When this new treatment is available, experts say it could cost about the same as hair transplant surgery now, which can run upwards of $10,000.

ABC Action News' sister station KGTV contributed to this report.