Hartley: Coaxing mullets from the backs of mutant mice
October 25, 2013
If you're reading these words, there's a good chance they're accompanied by my picture. You might note in the picture that I look bald, but I'd like to point out that the picture of me you're most likely viewing was taken seven years ago. For all you know, I could have a full head of hair by now.
What? No, I'm not a member of the Hair Club for Men. I'm not talking about grafting my neck hair onto my dome, and I'm not talking about a toupee or hair plugs. I'm talking about the skin on my head actually regrowing hair.
Sure, it hasn't happened yet, but it could happen soon, thanks to a joint team of scientists from the University of Durham in the U.K. and Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Using cells from the base of a hair follicle, the scientists were able to create new hair follicles in human skin, essentially curing baldness.
Obviously, this is big news, but we follicularly challenged types shouldn't start celebrating just yet. There are still a few things that need to be worked out first, not the least of which is the fact that scientists haven't yet figured out a way to duplicate the results with human subjects.
Yes, I know I said the scientists created new hair follicles in human skin. They did. It's just that the human skin wasn't actually on humans at the time. It had been grafted onto the backs of laboratory mice.
(There is an episode of "South Park" from 2008 called "Eek, a Penis!" in which Mrs. Garrison, having had her gender reassigned, decides she doesn't want to be a woman after all, so a new penis is grown for her on the back of a mouse. I always thought the whole premise of that episode was something the show's writers dreamt up. Apparently, I was wrong. It seems scientists really are growing human parts on the backs of mice. Call me a technophobe, but that creeps me out.)
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Anyway, back to regrowing hair. This breakthrough means that science is one step closer to a viable treatment for baldness, which will be the biggest thing in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. You thought Viagra got men excited? Wait until they hear they can keep their mullets and ponytails well into their 90s. Old guys'll be sporting dangerous four-hour erections all over the place.
Of course, for me, the question now becomes: If I could get my hair back, would I? And the answer, without a doubt, is an emphatic "no."
I always tell people that I had really bad hair as a kid, and they typically point at my gleaming pate and say, "Well, of course you did, you poor man. That must have been horrible for you."
Yes, that would have been horrible, but I wasn't bald as a child, smart-ass. In fact, I had just the opposite problem. I had a legendary head of hair. I had more hair on my head than any two of my classmates. It was awful.
I was so follicularly overburdened that I never found a hairstyle that worked. You could say I was never comfortable in my own hair. If I could have gotten hair-reassignment surgery, I would have spent my last dime on it.
But now, having been bald for the past dozen years, and having spent roughly $13.26 in that time on haircuts and shampoo, I feel like this is who I am. This is the person I think of on those rare occasions when I think of myself. All those years, I was a really a bald man trapped in a hairy-headed man's body.
So when the cure for baldness finally hits the market, I would encourage you to invest in the company behind the drug. It will be huge. And if you're ashamed of your own baldness and wish to grow your hair back, I encourage you to. If it makes you feel better about yourself, I say do it.
But the pharmaceutical companies won't be getting my money, Jack. Not this old bald guy — because that's who I am: an old bald guy. Not a self-loathing bald guy or a bald guy pining away for the Bon Jovi hairdo he once rocked in middle school but a proud and confident bald guy. Proud to be rid of the hair that made my childhood so awkward and confident that it won't be growing back any time soon.
Todd Hartley should update his picture to show how proudly bald he is now. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://www.zerobudget.net.