One of the most important recent discoveries in medicine is that human fat tissue is rich in stem and other regenerative cells. Hundreds of studies are actively being conducted around the world to determine the best method for isolating these cells and in determining their characteristics and best methods of applications. Needless to say, this is a field of rapid development and currently with more questions than answers on how to best apply it.
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can differentiate into highly specific cells that can repair damaged tissues, including potentially hair follicles. There are two types of stem cells: embryonic (derived from umbilical cord blood) and adult (derived from bone marrow, subcutaneous fat tissue, and/or blood).
Stem cell therapy represents the latest and greatest field of medical treatments. It seems to play important roles in treating leukemia, lymphomas, scleroderma, psoriasis, and chronic wounds. Current studies are also exploring the role of stem cells in the treatment of diabetes, Parkinsons disease, Huntington disease, Alzheimers, celiac disease, burns, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
Hair follicles naturally contain stem cells that are concentrated around what is called the dermal papilla, but also all along the hair shaft. It is the job of these stem cells to oversee and drive the growth of hair follicles. One area of research has proved that the number of stem cells in the scalp of bald and non-bald people is the same. This discovery now leads to the next area of research, which is the investigation of how to “wake up” those dormant stem cells.
In another area of study, a group of scientists have determined that the scalp in bald individuals is typically thinner than that in individuals with a head full of hair. This has led to the idea of injecting fat (the stem cells included) into the scalp of balding individuals to recreate this subcutaneous layer that has been lost in the process of balding.
Today, there are several devices to isolate stem cells and the process is relatively straightforward. A small amount of the patient’s own fat obtained through liposuction is processed using a specialized machine that isolates a supply of regenerative cells that can be injected into the patient’s scalp. These stem cells could potentially stimulate dormant stem cells of the scalp, with anticipated results of therapy include a:
- stimulation of hair growth.
- prevention of hair loss
- reduction of inflammation in certain scalp conditions,
- increase of blood flow in the scalp,
- Improvement of the quality of the hair
Stem cell therapy, while still under active investigation, seems to have great potential. We are optimistic that in the future, regenerative medicine and stem cell “transplantation” will be one of if not the gold standard in the treatment of many types of hair loss.