Back in 2011, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, led by George Cotsarelis, overturned one of the misconceptions about AndroGenic Alopecia (AGA, the so-called Male Pattern Baldness). Prior to then, it was accepted that AGA sufferers had fewer hair follicles in the affected areas of their scalp and that the only hope for hair renewal resided in the invasive and inconsistent process of transplantation.
However, the 2011 studies revealed that the follicles were still present, though in an inactive and shrunken form, in AGA patients. Since then, researchers (many from that same university) have been engaged in looking for ways to re-activate the signaling mechanisms that can cause such dormant follicles to spring back to life. Other studies have focused on the follicle-producing mechanism itself including the roles of genetic signaling and stem cell deployment.
Of course, AGA is only one of the conditions which leaves two-thirds of American men with thinning hair, while 40% of those with hair loss are women. A variety of factors can act– singly or together– to negatively affect the hair growth cycle (e.g. hormonal, nutritional, genetic, environmental, etc.) That is why it is important for those living with any sort of a baldness condition to speak to their doctor before seeking treatment.
Common Surgical and non-Surgical Treatments for Hair Loss
With comparatively few stem cell treatments available to patients at this present time, most sufferers tend to turn to either chemicals, transplantation or a mixture of the two to manage their condition.
Unfortunately, topical and oral chemical remedies are often only effective in halting the progression of hair loss and many users report side effects. Some well-known brands of hair loss treatment have even been shown to cause permanent side effects (i.e. those which persist even after the patient has stopped using the product).
As for hair follicle transplantation, results tend to vary wildly with successful cases replenishing up to 90% of hair loss but other patients only seeing a hardly a 10% increase in hair volume. Worse still, the ‘collateral loss’ of healthy follicles caused by the trauma of transplant can, in rare cases, lead to accelerated hair loss.
Recent research has uncovered the potential role of platelet rich plasma (PRP) in enhancing the success rate of transplantation either by being administered alongside the procedure or used as a storage medium for donor hair follicles. Although this is not a stem cell therapy as such, it is thought that the growth factors in PRP stimulate existing stem cells to produce new, healthy hair follicles.
Recent Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine
Stem cell research is part of the exciting field of regenerative medicine which looks at the different ways in which the body can be helped to heal itself. Three years after Cotsarelis’s discoveries, the University of Pennsylvania produced another groundbreaking piece of work. This time, Dr Xiowei Xu and his team found a way to convert skin cells into pluripotent stem cells and then to direct these into forming keratinocytes, epithelial cells which are required for one part of the hair follicle formation process. Over a period of 18 days, Dr Xu and co-workers managed the timing of important growth factor to transform a quarter of the original skin cells present into these specialized epithelial cells before purifying them using proteins expressed on their surface. These were then combined with mouse dermal cells and grafted on to mice. Shortly afterwards, the affected area started sprouting human-like hair.
In natural human hair follicle production, an equally important role is played by the dermal papillae, undulations of connective tissue which are most commonly associated with the pattern of ridges we term ‘fingerprints.’ Dermal papillae are produced from the tissue layer known as the mesoderm and this is why many stem cell researchers see mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as important in the future of hair loss treatment.
Other recent research has focused on the role of the gene wnt, which appears to be involved in the process whereby follicles are instructed to produce hair. Mouse studies have demonstrated that a skin wound will activate wnt which will then direct stem cells to the damaged area. So far, researchers have also found a clear link between the expression of wnt and the hair-producing activity of follicles in mice but there is still much testing to be done in this area before the full mechanisms are understood.
The Role of Fat: Why Adipose-Derived Stem Cell Therapy Makes Sense
So what part might fat (specifically, adipose-derived stem cells) play in the provision of hair loss treatment? As mentioned above, dermal papillae arise from the mesoderm which is the same tissue layer from which fat, blood, cartilage and bone are produced. Multi-potent stem cells, under normal conditions, can only differentiate into cells from a specific tissue layer. Fortunately for hair loss sufferers, the most readily available stem cells in the human body are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which are able to become any cell in the mesoderm – including dermal papillae.
Adipose-derived stem cells also have many distinct advantages when compared with other types of MSC. For example, gram-for-gram, they yield around five hundred times more stem cells than bone-marrow derived blood cells. With evidence suggesting that successful outcomes are linked to stem cell abundance, the more cells that can be harvested the better for a patient’s prognosis. In addition, the extraction of bone-marrow derived blood cells can be – if not painful – extremely uncomfortable as it usually involves drilling into one of the hip bones. Adipose-derived stem cells, on the other hand, can be extracted using a simple, less invasive liposuction procedure.
Perhaps one of the most compelling advantages of using adipose-derived stem cells in treating health conditions is that treatment is available right now. Providing stem cells are harvested and re-deployed with minimal processing using approved conditions in licensed premises, there is no need for FDA approval since this is not a drug and there is minimal manipulation. This is completely logical since patients are simply being treated with their own cells under sterile conditions.
The Mississippi Stem Cell Treatment Center uses mini-liposuction to extract a rich stem cell ‘soup’ known as Stromal Vascular Fraction, or SVF. This is minimally processed, in a closed system, to concentrate the harvested stem cells before returning them to the patient as treatment for a wide range of conditions.
The Inevitable March of Stem Cell Treatments
Stem cell treatment is often presented as a futuristic medicine, but it has been in use, in the form of bone marrow transplantation, for six decades. New stem cell products are being licensed, albeit slowly, all the time and the list of conditions for which active research is taking place grows by the day. Scientists do not spend vast amounts of time and resource on fringe therapies; it is truly a matter of when – and in what form – rather than if stem cells will become a commonplace agent of treatment and healing for a huge variety of conditions. Also, as seen in the wnt gene studies, hair growth is inseparable from successful wound repair since healthy skin will naturally heal well and produce healthy hair. Therefore, it is quite likely that research involving wounds and skin regeneration will help to advance the cause of those suffering from the often underestimated social and emotional effects of hair loss.
Based in the tranquil surroundings of the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Stem Cell Treatment Center is involved in pioneering stem cell research and offers treatment for numerous health conditions, including hair loss -Hair Transplantation Stem Cell Treatment. We update our list of applicable conditions frequently and we invite you to call (886) 855 4823 or to visit website at http://www.gulfcoaststemcell.com to check the list of conditions that we can consider treating, remembering that we may have missed listing a few!