An innovative hair transplant procedure uses stem cells from your body to encourage the growth of naturally occurring hair. The field of stem cells has been studied for years, but many doctors are investigating how stem cells might boost and restore hair growth.
Research on stem cell hair transplants is still in its infancy.
Some clinics offer stem cell hair replacement treatments, but they are still considered clinical trials and are not approved by the FDA.
Stem cell hair treatment clinical trials offer an alternative for people who are not candidates for current hair loss treatments.
Stem cells can help strengthen and revitalize weak hair follicles, as well as rejuvenate older follicles. A hair transplant is generally seen as a treatment for baldness, but there is a new, non-surgical way to regrow hair.
What is a stem cell?
A stem cell is any cell that has the potential to become another type of cell in the human body. These cells do not perform any specific functions in the body because they are unspecialized.
They are capable of dividing and renewing themselves, allowing them to either remain stem cells or differentiate into other types of cells. The cells divide and replace damaged tissues in the body to help repair them.
Hair restoration with stem cells
When researchers discovered that stem cells were capable of restoring follicles, they discovered that they could help regrow hair completely. Hair stem cell treatments involve implanting stem cells into hair follicles to generate new hair growth. Using this revolutionary method, new hair can be grown naturally and in a healthy way.
In some ways, stem cell hair transplants are like traditional hair transplants. Hair follicles are harvested from a small sample of skin instead of removing a large number of hairs to transplant to balding areas. Hair follicles are then replicated in a laboratory and transplanted into balding areas on the scalp. As a result, the follicles can grow where they were removed from, as well as where they are transplanted.
Stem cell hair transplants – the procedure:
The process begins with a punch biopsy to retrieve the patient's stem cells. A punch biopsy is performed by rotating a circular blade into the skin to remove a cylinder-shaped tissue sample.
A centrifuge is then used to separate the stem cells from the tissue. This results in a cell suspension, which is injected back into the scalp in areas with hair loss. Researchers are investigating stem cell hair loss treatment options. The procedures may differ slightly, but they all involve growing new follicles in a laboratory from a patient's tissue sample.
Stem cell hair transplants are currently available in some clinics. Hair transplants using stem cells are considered clinical trials because stem cell treatments aren't Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved.
The FDA issued a warning about stem cell treatments in 2017. In the warning, the FDA recommends choosing stem cell treatments approved by the FDA or being studied under an Investigational New Drug (IND) application, as the FDA authorizes INDs.
Generally, these procedures are performed in an outpatient setting and consist of the removal of fat cells from the patient's abdomen or hip using local anesthesia.
The stem cells are extracted from the fat in a special process before being injected into the scalp. It takes approximately three hours to complete this procedure.
Currently, clinics that offer this procedure cannot guarantee its outcome. If any results are achieved, they can vary from person to person. In order to see results, it may take several treatments over a long period of time.
Various hair loss conditions can be treated with stem cell hair transplants, including:
- Scarring alopecia
- Male pattern baldness
- Female pattern baldness
What to expect after the procedure – the recovery:
It is expected that there will be some pain following the procedure that usually subsides within a week.
Although excessive exercise should be avoided for a week, no recovery period is necessary. Due to the effects of local anesthesia, the patient will not be able to drive home after the procedure.
Side effects of stem cell treatment
In the current state of research, there is little information available about stem cell hair transplant side effects. There's always the risk of bleeding or infection at the removal and injections sites, just like any medical procedure. There is also the possibility of scarring.
Although punch biopsy complications are rare, nerves or arteries beneath the site may be damaged. Complications and side effects associated with fat removal are also possible.
Stem cell treatment for hair – rate of success:
Stem cell hair transplants have a very promising success rate according to research. According to studies, hair density increased by 29% after 23 weeks. Documented results demonstrate the benefits of the procedure and its speedy recovery with no lasting side effects.
The technology could be beneficial for hair loss patients whose follicles have been scarred, preventing them from growing. In this case, healthy hair follicles aren't needed from the back of the head or the side of the head. In this way, patients with severe conditions can receive treatment where traditional hair transplantation may not be possible.
- Stem Cell Investigation. Stem cells from human hair follicles: first mechanical isolation for immediate autologous clinical use in androgenetic alopecia and hair loss.
- National Institutes of Health. Stem Cell Basics.