A stem cell hair transplant is a non-surgical treatment for hair loss. It uses unspecialised stem cells with the aim of converting them into new hair follicles.
In the past, stem cell therapy has been used to treat a variety of diseases as a regenerative medicine.
And because of their ability to repair and replace damaged or lost cells, stem cells are now being used to treat baldness too.
While the research on it is promising, it might not give you the same results as a traditional hair transplant. Knowing exactly what you’re going to get out of it is important before making your decision.
What Is A Stem Cell?
Mayo Clinic’s stem cell definition is that it’s 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 hair transplant with stem cells 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 health issues such as:
- Corneal disease
As of now, the FDA-approved stem cell product is for patients with blood disorders who need blood-forming stem cells.
But, more and more, it’s being labelled as the “breakthrough” treatment or the “next chapter” in medicine.
What Is A Stem Cell Transplant?
A stem cell transplant replaces damaged or unhealthy stem cells with healthy ones.
It’s used for the treatment of certain bone marrow cancers and blood diseases. However, it’s also done to replace bone marrow cells that have been damaged or destroyed by chemo- and/or radiotherapy.
For this, stem cells are taken from the blood or the bone marrow itself.
It could be from the same person – autologous transplant – or from a donor (family or someone unrelated) in what’s known as an allogeneic transplant.
First, the stem cells are harvested, and the patient receives a conditioning treatment. The latter involves chemo, radio or monoclonal antibody therapy to the entire body so that it’s prepared to receive the stem cells.
After this, the stem cells are transplanted into the body so they can engraft with the bone marrow and start making new blood cells.
Stem cell transplantation carries a lot of risks, so make sure to discuss these with your surgeon beforehand.
What Is A Stem Cell Hair Transplant?
A stem cell hair transplant involves taking stem cells from the body, culturing them, multiplying them, and then injecting them back into the balding regions of the scalp.
These stem cells can come from:
- Adipose tissue (from fat cells)
- Hair follicle bulge
- Cord blood
- Bone marrow
They are basically injected into the body in the hopes that they will result in what’s known as “follicular neogenesis” (regeneration of hair follicles).
So far, there’s no standardised treatment. However, there have been small-scale human trials in which stem cell treatment for hair has been successful.
Some studies even grafted human skin on rats with stem cell injections into them. While they were able to grow hair, it did not look like natural hair, which made it cosmetically undesirable.
How To Do Hair Transplantation With Stem Cell Treatment?
As mentioned above, there’s no consensus on a standardised treatment for stem cell hair transplants. That’s because it still requires a lot of research.
However, some of the techniques that have been used for this include:
Hair Follicle-Derived Stem Cell Transplant
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, 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. It was then centrifuged for 60 seconds at 80 RPM (revolutions per minute).
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.
Adipose-Derived Stem Cell Transplant
In one study published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, stem cells derived from adipose tissue improved hair growth in alopecia areata patients.
For this treatment, first, lipoaspiration (liposuction) was done to remove fat from the body. Afterwards, the lipoaspirate was diluted in sterile saline to which antibiotics were also added. It was then centrifuged to get rid of any debris and blood cells.
That isolated the adipose-derived stromal vascular cells (containing the stem cells), which were then injected into the scalps of the patients.
The patients grew new hair, had increased hair growth, and also performed better on the hair pull test 3 and 6 months after the procedure.
Stem Cell Educator Therapy
Another “stem cell educator therapy” has also been used for stem cell hair treatment.
In this technique, the cells are essentially “educated.”
Published in BMC Medicine, in this, 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.
After that, 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 Does A Stem Cell Hair Transplant Involve?
In a hair stem cells transplantation, some tissue is removed from the body, which is then used to isolate stem cells. These stem cells are then injected into the target areas to promote hair growth.
Once you’ve had the procedure, you may be able to get back to work right after. However, you might be advised to avoid rigorous physical activity for a few weeks (or longer).
Additionally, you might be prescribed some medications to reduce the risk of or manage any side effects (swelling, infection, etc.)
Stem Cell Hair Transplant: Can It Treat Baldness?
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 are still intact, this gave the idea that it was still possible to reverse the condition.
And many small-scale and animal-model clinical researches show that hair stem cell transplants can result in regrowth on the scalp.
But it’s not just for genetic hair loss. As the research shows, it can also help grow hair lost due to severe alopecia areata.
Is Stem Cell Hair Transplant Permanent?
Since a stem cell hair treatment aims to regenerate hair follicles, it should give permanent results. However, you’ll probably need multiple sessions of this treatment over a period of a few months.
However, keep in mind, currently, there’s no long-term research on the results of this treatment. So, they can’t exactly be guaranteed.
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 stem cell hair growth as the participants in the studies mentioned above.
Is Stem Cell Hair Transplant Available?
While it’s not widely available, a few clinics are offering stem cell hair transplants.
Although, you should be careful because some clinics market platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections as a hair stem cell transplantation.
The reason behind it is that there’s a lot that is still not known about stem cell therapy for hair.
For instance, according to a review published in CellR4, this treatment requires more clinical research on its “mechanisms of action, efficacy, safety, benefits and limitations.”
When Will Stem Cell Hair Transplant Become Available?
There might still be quite a few years till a hair transplant stem cell becomes more mainstream.
Previously, it was estimated that this hair loss treatment would become available by 2020. And although some clinics are offering it, it isn’t exactly a popular treatment option.
That might change once there is more solid scientific evidence backing its benefits.
What Is Stem Cell Hair Transplant Price?
A stem cell hair transplant can cost more than a traditional FUE hair transplant, anywhere between £2,000-£8,000.
Some clinics also offer PRP treatments with them. So, make sure to include that and the price of consultation, medication, and aftercare in your total stem cell hair restoration cost.
Stem cell hair transplant in Turkey is also available, where it may cost 3-5 times less.
Although if the prices are on the very low end, compared to the average in an area, this may be a red flag.
A few clinics are already offering stem cell treatment for hair loss 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, and large-scale research on this still needs to be done. Stem cell hair transplant is not FDA-approved either.
Still, 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. Hassan Soueid.