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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - As entrepreneurs cast about Silicon Valley for lucrative new ideas, Mike Blaylock thinks he has a found a gold mine in an underground vault he hopes to fill with hair.

The tresses will come from the heads of men and women who dread the day they might go bald.

Blaylock's San Francisco startup, Hairogenics Inc., is offering to preserve the strands until science finds a cure for baldness. He says that given the advances in cloning, it's only a matter of time before someone finds a way to create hair from the DNA of a preserved hair sample.

When that day comes, Blaylock says bald people will be glad they paid Hairogenics to stash their hair in a climate-controlled vault 14 feet below a Portland, Ore., hair salon. The cost: $49.95 for the initial hair collection kit and a $10 annual storage fee.

"This is a sensitive issue for a lot of men out there," said Blaylock, 32, whose own locks are receding. "We definitely think there is going to be plenty of demand for this kind of service."

So much so that Hairogenics is ready to accommodate about 800,000 bags of hair.

That's just a small fraction of the 50 million men nationwide who suffer from hereditary hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Another 30 million women grapple with some degree of hair loss.

Hairogenics, funded with less than $100,000, already has signed up nearly 200 customers, even though it isn't opening its doors until Monday.

Some of the early customers, such as Daniel Kerr of Portland, Ore., aren't even going bald, but want to put something away for a hairless day.

"It's a precaution," Kerr, 30, said. "Even if I don't go bald, maybe when I get old, there might be a way for me to get my young hair back."

On the Net: www.hairogenics.com

Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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