NY1 – FEBRUARY 20, 2012
By Adam Balkin
A new robot could help return hair to those of us who, as we get older, find ourselves a bit follically challenged. Called the ARTAS System from Restoration Robotics, it was recently approved by the FDA to help with a type of hair transplantation technique called follicular unit transplantation where follicular units, groups of one to four hairs, are removed directly from the back of the head and transplanted on the top and front. Removing those units has always proved to be the toughest part of this method, but the robot changes that, which is why even Dr. Robert Bernstein – the man who’s widely credited with developing follicular unit transplantation and extraction – jumped to be among the first in the U.S. to use the device.
“A follicular unit is about a half a millimeter and you have a one millimeter circle that has to go dead center over it to punch this out. So when you’re doing it by eye and you’re doing thousands of them over time you’re missing them over time it’s not exactly precise. The robot is dead center each time and follows the angle of the hair,” explains Bernstein.
While the robot doesn’t really have any direct impact on how the transplant will ultimately look – that’s still up to the doctor’s expertise and artistic skill. What it does do is give the doctor a better quality sample of hair with which to work.
“There’s always damage to the follicles when you’re doing it because you’re doing it by hand through these very tiny incisions and so the yield is going to be less and so with a robot if you try to get out 100 follicles you’ll get very close to 100 follicles,” says Bernstein.
Again, the robot just makes the incision, the doctor still has to pull the hair, make sites on the front where the transplants will go and then actually make the transplants. However, developers say they are working on having future versions of the Artas System help with the entire process.