Can Stem Cells Revolutionize Hair Loss?
Hair growth by stem cells (pluripotent) is a new method for hair restoration. Many patients are excited to know that stem cell therapy can be used for the treatment of hair loss along with hair transplant surgery, platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP), topical treatments and laser therapy to achieve the desired aesthetic result.
What are Stem cells?
Stem cells are responsible for generating specialized tissues; they function as the raw material of the body; they are the cells from which all the other cells with specialized functions are produced. In the right conditions within the body or the laboratory, the stem cells divide to form more cells, called daughter cells.
These daughter cells can self-renew, that is, they become new stem cells or carry out a cell differentiation process in which they acquire a more specific function, such as the hair follicle, blood cells, bone cells, cardiac muscle, etc. These cells repair particular tissues in the body by dividing and replacing damaged tissues. Stem cells are found in small amounts in most adult tissues, such as the skin, bone marrow or fat.
In 2017, a group of Italian researchers managed to successfully perform a transplant of hair stem cells.
The procedure begins with the performance of a biopsy by puncture of the scalp of the patient to extract the stem cells. The stem cells are separated from the tissue in a particular machine called a centrifuge. Once removed, they are replicated in vitro to obtain a larger population of cells available for implantation. Subsequently, a cell suspension is injected back into the scalp in the areas of hair loss.
Some research has found that hair stem cell transplants can be useful in treating different hair loss conditions, including:
• Male androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness)
• Androgenetic alopecia (female pattern baldness)
• cicatricial alopecia (hair follicles are destroyed and replaced with scar tissue)
Currently, there are multiple research teams working on the treatment of hair loss through the use of stem cells. While the procedures may vary slightly, all are based on the growth of new hair follicles in a laboratory with a small sample of the patient’s skin.
Currently, several clinics offer a version of stem cell transplants for hair. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia and a mild oral sedative. Liposuction of the patient’s belly is performed to obtain its fat, which is then subjected to a unique process to isolate and concentrate the stem cells and inject them into the scalp. This procedure takes approximately three hours. However, although satisfactory results have been observed with the application of this technique, there is still a need for more research to ensure the success of the treatment.
It is essential to keep in mind that these procedures have not yet been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since they are considered in research. The FDA has stated that it will not support capillary therapy with stem cells as a medical practice of hair restoration unless all risks related to the technique have been minimized.
The main challenges of stem cell therapy
The primary challenge in the application of this innovative therapy to treat hair loss is the growth of the hair follicles since after the implantation of the cells in the areas of baldness the new hair follicles will grow in all angles and different directions. This is because the formation and course of growth of the hair follicle begin during embryonic development, while each hair follicle is independent and goes through growth cycles at different times.
Since we cannot determine in which direction the newly implanted hair follicles will grow, we can infer that, as in the traditional hair transplant procedure, the incision points can be created with the correct direction and angle, thus providing a natural look.
The perfect candidate for hair cloning
Hair transplant experts believe that stem cell therapy will offer a solution for patients who have undergone more than one hair transplant procedure but have not been able to obtain it.
As clinical trials are still in their early stages, the specifications of the ideal candidate cannot be accurately identified. However, the person must be healthy and, despite having tried the numerous treatment alternatives, has not been able to solve the problem of hair loss:
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