Are We There Yet? The State of Stem Cell Hair Restoration in 2017

Man Having His Balding Hairline Examined

With 50 million men and 30 million women affected by hair loss in the U.S. alone, it’s no surprise that hair restoration treatments are a hot topic among scientists.

What Are Stem Cells?

Many in the scientific and medical community believe stem cells have huge potential to treat a wide range of medical diseases and conditions, from diabetes to macular degeneration and joint pain.

What makes stem cells unique is that they are regenerative. These cells have the natural ability to repair tissue because they can develop into many different types of cells.

There are three main types of stem cells: embryonic, umbilical and adult. Embryonic stem cells, the most controversial, are derived from human embryos. Umbilical stem cells are collected from the umbilical cord shortly after birth. Adult stem cells, which are used in most hair restoration therapy trials today, are found in the adult body, especially in body fat.

New Technologies, New Treatments

Hair restoration technology is constantly evolving. Recently, scientists have turned their attention to more natural, non-surgical methods of hair restoration.

New treatments like Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections have become increasingly popular for those looking for non-surgical options to regrow hair. PRP treatments use a patient’s own platelets to stimulate hair growth.

Stem cell therapy is one of the the most talked-about new non-surgical treatments for hair loss. Adult-derived mesenchymal stem cells, rich in growth factors, are harvested from the fat in a patient’s abdomen and injected into the scalp. The hope is that the dormant hair follicle cells will be stimulated to regenerate, and hair growth will be restored.

Stem cell therapy trials are popping up across the U.S., and the results are promising so far. Participation in these studies is pricey, ranging from $5,000 to as much as $11,000 for two to six treatments over the course of one year.

How Stem Cells Restore Hair

The specific reasons for hair loss are still up for debate, but one leading theory is that the stem cells that make new hair follicles eventually die with age.

These stem cells break down over time in response to age, genetics, prolonged chemical exposure and sun damage, causing chemical changes in the body that stop hair follicles from growing new hair. Eventually, the hair follicles shrink and shrivel away completely.

Scientists believe that intervening before the follicle stem cells begin to decline may slow hair loss and even stimulate the growth of new hair over time.

Scientists working with adult stem cells — the body’s natural regenerative cells — may be on the brink of a breakthrough when it comes to curing hair loss in both men and women.

Hair restoration treatments using adult stem cells extract a patient’s fat cells, isolate the stem cells from the fat and inject the stem cells back into the scalp where hair is thin.

Some scientists believe that hair loss is caused by decreased blood supply to hair follicles, which can be triggered by age, genetics, autoimmune disease or even inflammation. Trials to re-vascularize hair follicles are being conducted with mesenchymal stem cells.

Are We There Yet?

One pain management specialist is experimenting in Panama with injecting umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells into patients’ scalps. The growth factors in these stem cells are thought to be much stronger than options such as platelet-rich plasma treatments.

Another stem cell trial in China and Canada uses stem cells to re-seed hairlines.

There are even plans for a line of hair products that contain growth factors harvested from amniotic fluid and placenta  donated from live births. These products are expected to hit high-end salons later this year.

Stem cell therapy for hair restoration is still in the developmental stage, but the research shows promising results. That’s great news for millions of men and women looking for a natural, permanent solution to restore their hair.

Trials and studies in the U.S. and abroad are helping scientists better understand the role of stem cells as well as the potential side effects and long-term viability of stem cell therapies. Work is needed, for example, to ensure that using stem cells to encourage cellular generation for hair restoration does not contribute to the growth of benign tumors. 

Though current stem cell therapies for hair loss and thinning hair are still somewhat limited and very expensive, scientists are encouraged. More therapies to treat hair loss and the underlying conditions that cause it may soon be on the horizon.

To learn more about cutting-edge options to restore your thinning hair, Contact NeoGraft Dallas today.