Hair loss is a more significant issue than what most people want to admit. Many men and women are likely to experience some form of hair loss in their life, and in most cases, they are not to blame. Much of the causes of hair loss have to do with genetics, which may cease hair growth entirely. So, if hair loss is a common occurrence, why is it still such a taboo topic? How come it remains a health concern no one wants to talk about openly?
Throughout history until today, healthy hair is one of the most prominent symbols of youth. Even great men such as Hippocrates and Julius Ceasar have spent their lives seeking hair loss solutions to no avail. Fast forward to 2020; we have seen many advancements in science and technology.
There are all sorts of products and procedures available to the public now, and one of the more recent ones is Stem Cell Therapy. But what is it anyway? Is it a more viable option in comparison to other treatments? Let us take a closer look.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are like our body's raw materials. They possess the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body. These also serve as our body’s repair system and are classified into two main types:
- Embryonic stem cells
- These are harvested from embryos in its developmental stage and are used to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs.
- Adult stem cells
- These are rare, undifferentiated cells primarily found in the brain, bone marrow, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin, teeth, heart, gut, liver, and other organs and tissues. They divide to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues.
Stem cells are different from other cells in the body in three ways. What makes stem cells unique from the other cells in our body is their ability to divide and renew themselves in the long run. While they are considered unspecialized and unable to perform specific bodily functions, they still have the potential to transform. They can become muscle cells, blood cells, and brain cells. This extraordinary ability has many doctors and scientists so fascinated about them, as they can be of great use in many areas in health and medical research.
The Connection Between Stem Cells and Our Hair
Hair comes in several types and textures. The one responsible for our hair characteristics is the hair follicle. And the cell accountable for our hair’s growth, length, and volume is the dermal papilla. The dermal papilla nests in the hair follicle and experts look into it as the key to solving hair loss.
Do you remember the unique traits of stem cells? What if they can rejuvenate, replace, and repair damaged hair follicles? It would present the possibility of curing hair loss for everyone, regardless of the cause. This working theory makes many researchers, universities, and companies look forward to with excitement, and much time and money are already investigating the possibilities.
Getting to Know the Procedure
The procedure starts with extracting stem cells from the patient via a punch biopsy, using a circular blade rotated into the skin to retrieve a cylindrical tissue sample. A centrifuge machine separates the stem cells from the tissue sample, and the cell suspension goes back into the affected part of the scalp where hair loss is visible through an injection.
There is another procedure wherein cell extraction occurs in the patient’s abdomen or hip instead, using liposuction under local anesthesia. Similar to the first process above is the injection of stem cells from the fat into the scalp.
These procedures usually take around three hours to complete, and the clinics that currently offer them cannot guarantee the outcomes. As for results, if any, vary from person to person. It may also require several treatments over a few months to see any changes.
Bear in mind that these transplants are still in their research phase, but the investigational therapies mentioned could cost you approximately $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the hair loss type and severity.
What Can You Expect After the Procedure?
The procedures take place in-clinic on an outpatient basis. Typically, there is no downtime, but there might be some pain for about a week. Strenuous exercises are restricted.
Experts are still looking into the side effects, but some scarring is always a possibility. There is also the risk of bleeding, infection, and nerve damage.
While a successful transplant in 2017 shows a 29% increase in hair density in 23 weeks, there is still much research to be done. Current studies are promising, but, like other transplants, these procedures are not for everybody. There are also hefty costs and side effects to consider.
Stem cell therapy is a promising hair loss solution, but more research is required before results are conclusive. And once the procedures become publicly accessible, there is the risk of side effects and the expensive costs over multiple treatment sessions.