The future of hair loss treatments
In recent times, possibly the biggest change in hair loss treatments has been the advent of platelet rich plasma (PRP). This involves the processing of a person’s own blood to isolate the part of blood containing platelets. This portion of blood, called platelet rich plasma, is then injected or infused through microneedling holes into a person’s scalp. The idea behind PRP is that when activated, platelets release signals called growth factors that tell hair follicles to grow. It does this through a variety of signals but the main ones are platelet-derived growth factor, transforming growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor. These growth factors tell the hair follicle cells in the dermal papilla (the base of the hair follicle) to enter and prolong anagen or growth phase. Vascular endothelial growth factor also tells the scalp to build a new blood supply to support the growing hair follicles. PRP should be done by a machine that can produce the clinically proven concentration of platelets which is about 5 times the baseline concentration. Many clinics are not using machines which use this standard. A series of treatments are required starting with 3 treatments spaced a month apart. After this, booster treatments may be needed every year.
While growth factors released from platelets in PRP have been shown to be effective for hair loss, growth factors can also be isolated from other cells, for example, adipose derived stem cells. Adipose derived stem cells pretty much refers to stem cells that are isolated from fat. These are typically collected from liposuction. Such treatments also have therapeutic benefit for other purposes such as skin rejuvenation. In the case of hair loss, plastic surgeons from Tokyo conducted studies showing significant benefits in the treatment of hair loss. Patients were treated every 3-5 weeks for a total of 6 sessions. In addition to vascular endothelial growth factor and platelet derived growth factor like PRP, their solution also contained hepatocyte growth factor (cyclical growth of hair follicles) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (controls the hair growth cycle and differentiation of hair shafts). The main disadvantage of their method is that it requires liposuction to extract the fat.
Another group of researchers from Yokohama National University grew human hair follicles on the back of mice. They fabricated hair beads by combining human hair follicle stem cells in collagen cell and then mixed this with mouse skin cells. The resulting clumps were then transplanted into the backs of mice and grew. This method is exciting because it is scalable, meaning that it is faster to perform than other methods of growing human hair. It may have huge applications for hair transplants where all the hair is generated in the lab instead of taken from the back of same person’s scalp. It may be of huge significance to individuals with sparse hair supply in the safe donor zone or those who do not want to have to shave their head in order to extract hairs.