A regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy, has been used for the treatment of different diseases. And because of their ability to repair or replace cells lost to injury and damage, stem cells are also being used for treating baldness. A stem cell hair transplant is a non-surgical solution that can help regrow hair. This is why many people choose to get it.
What Is A Stem Cell?
Mayo Clinic defines stem cells as the “body’s raw material.” This “raw material” becomes cells of the bone, heart, muscles, and other organs of the body. A damaged or injured tissue or organ can also be repaired, renewed, or replaced with these cells. So, basically, stem cells are “unspecialised cells” that have the ability to differentiate into more “specialised” cells.
They can be found in both adults and embryos (fertilised eggs). However, adult stem cells are not typically preferred. That’s because they don’t have the ability to differentiate into all the different cell types, unlike embryonic stem cells. However, there have been ethical concerns regarding the use of the latter. Fortunately, as far as a stem cell hair transplant is concerned, it can be performed using adult stem cells.
Although it’s not easy to differentiate stem cells into the cell types you want. In addition, producing them in large numbers is also quite challenging. Still, you might’ve heard a lot about the potential use of stem cells in the treatment of various diseases such as:
- Corneal disease
Currently, the FDA-approved stem cell product is for blood-forming stem cells for patients with blood disorders. But, more and more, it’s being labelled as the “breakthrough” treatment or the “next chapter” in medicine.
What Does A Stem Cell Hair Transplant Involve?
Research has shown that when a person has androgenetic alopecia, although the total number of hair follicle stem cells remains the same, fewer of them are active. However, since the stem cells were still intact, this gave the idea that it was still possible to reverse the condition.
There are different ways in which stem cell treatment for hair has been developed. This procedure involves taking stem cells from the body, culturing them, multiplying them, and then injecting them back into the balding regions of the scalp.
Some studies grafted human skin on rats and injected stem cells into them. While they were able to grow hair, it did not look like natural hair, which made it cosmetically undesirable. However, there have been small-scale human trials in which hair stem cell treatment for hair has been successful.
So, in a stem cell hair transplant, stem cells are basically injected into the body with the hopes that they will result in what’s known as “follicular neogenesis” (regeneration of hair follicles). While stem cells have been used for this, some studies have also investigated the conversion of non-stem cells (somatic/specialised cells) into stem cells for this purpose.
Research on Hair Transplant Surgery With Stem Cells
In one study published in Stem Cell Investigation, researchers isolated adult stem cells from the scalps of those who had male pattern baldness. They were at stages 3-5 of the Norwood Scale. For the procedure itself, a Rigeneracons® device was used. But first, a punch biopsy was performed, and the scalp tissue was cut into smaller strips while the fat was removed.
Afterwards, to the tissue, a “physiologic solution” was added in a centrifuge machine. Once the cell suspension was obtained, it was injected into the different regions of the scalp without any anaesthesia. After the procedure, the results were assessed at different time periods. After 23 weeks, the hair density increased by 29%, while there was only a 1% increase in the placebo.
Although this study used stem cells found in the hair follicle bulge, other cells have also been used for obtaining stem cells. These include:
- Adipose tissue (from fat cells)
- Cord blood
- Bone marrow
Stem cells have been used to treat other types of hair loss. In one study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, stem cells derived from adipose tissue improved hair growth in alopecia areata patients. In addition, they also did better on the hair pull test 3 and 6 months following the procedure.
Another “stem cell educator therapy” has also been used. In this technique, the cells are essentially “educated.” First, the researchers separated mononuclear cells (cells with one nucleus) from the “whole blood.” These cells then interacted with stem cells that were obtained from umbilical cord blood. These stem cells were then reintroduced into the patient’s circulation. This was able to improve hair growth and quality of life of individuals who had severe alopecia areata.
What Are the Stem Cell Hair Transplant Results?
Some studies have shown that stem cell hair transplant can result in successful growth. And hair growth has been possible for different types of hair loss. However, some of the techniques used for a stem cell hair transplant are still “investigational” at best. There’s no guarantee that you’d get the same results as the participants in the studies mentioned above.
What Is Stem Cell Hair Transplant Price?
A stem cell hair transplant can cost more than a traditional FUE hair transplant, anywhere between £1,600-£8,000. Although prices on the very low end, compared to the average in an area, may be a red flag. Some clinics also offer PRP treatments with them. And it’s also possible that you may need multiple sessions of this treatment.
Many clinics are already offering stem cell hair transplants and continue to do so because it has been promising enough. Unspecialised cells are injected into the scalp to convert into hair follicles. Technologies have been developed to assist with this treatment. Large scale research on this still needs to be done, but some research shows that it can be helpful in the treatment of different types of alopecia.
However, when choosing a clinic, you need to be careful. Some of them offer PRP treatments under the name of “stem cell hair transplant.” Although they both involve injections, they’re very different. You should make sure to ask your doctor about all the pros and cons of this treatment before undergoing it.
Reviewed and approved by Dr Kuddusi Onay.