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Can carefully plucked hair be grown (or kept alive) outside the body? Answered

While sitting down to actually type this out, I realized that some might read this as gross or creepy.  I'm curious however, so my question to you brilliant instructamals out there is this:  If I carefully pluck a hair from my head, is it possible or feasible to provide it an environment where it could be "kept alive" or grown?  I realize the hair itself is not actually alive, but it's the follicle I'm interested in.  If provided a sterile tray with agar, what elements would be required to save the follicle?  Hair Multiplication uses a similar method, but I can't locate any good information on it.



Best Answer 7 years ago

You would need a chunk of skin (scalp) to support it. Its a structure and not a single independent cell. So you would need all the associated cells with it and a support and nourishment system as well. Skin transplants or grafts include all the pours and hairs and such.

This is a good question. When we do hair transplants, the hairs(in units called grafts) are extracted with special instruments and kept alive for hours. Some doctors keep them alive for up to 12 hours. You can see picures of a graft kept alive at the bottom of this hair transplant page. The Grafts are the hair shaft and bulb with surrounding protective tissue. The current common protocol involves Saline or a saline like solution + ice or a cold environment.  In a lot of ways, a hair transplant is alike an organ transplant with the organ on the move from one hospital to the other.  Only in a hair transplant its the same patient getting the hair.  So in short, yes you can keep the hair alive as a restoration doctor would but you will need Saline and some special extraction instruments to not traumatize the hair. 
Rashid M. Rashid MD PhD
Hair Transplant Houston FUE Center


7 years ago

As you say "the hair itself is not actually alive", the follicle that is actually alive is still in your body.



7 years ago

Given a food source and circulation I guess any live element can be maintained.

There are skin tissue samples that are many years old maintained in labs.


7 years ago

I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I would be very surprised if any conditions existed where you could keep a hair follicle alive AND have it grow. From what I understand in hair transplant "surgery", they remove healthy hair follicles, and separate them and then transplant them into another area.