There is no “magic” cure for treating hair loss. There may be a number of hair loss treatments that are available, but only some of them can effectively treat hair loss. This is slated for a change with some avant-garde research by scientists in stem cell technology. A case in point is that of The RepliCel method.
The RepliCel Method
The RepliCel method holds the key to hair loss treatment using stem cells. It is based on the findings of Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, (who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012). He discovered that mature cells can be converted into stem cells.
So, how is this discovery related to hair loss treatment?
For starters, the most common form of hair loss is Androgenetic Alopecia and it affects both men and women. In this type of hair loss, men lose their hair in an M-shaped pattern while women experience overall thinning of hair on their scalp. This is due to “miniaturization” of the hair follicles. The RepliCel method can be used to re-activate the hair follicles in a less invasive way than a hair transplant surgery.
Looking at the potentials of this method, Japan’s cosmetic brand Shiseido has partnered with RepliCel Life Sciences to bring forth an effective hair loss cure in the next couple of years. Also, it must be noted that the method of hair regrowth achieved using the RepliCel method is in many ways similar to that of Sheseido’s beauty treatments.
Based on the RepliCel method, a path-breaking technique was developed by New Technique Scientists at California-based Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.
Research by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute
Scientists at the California-based Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have come up with a treatment for hair loss, which makes use of stem cells for hair regrowth. This technique was used by them for growing human hair on mice.
In this method, human “Stem Cells” are developed into “Dermal Papillae Cells”, which are responsible for the formation of hair follicles and play a vital role in the hair growth cycle. The scientists grew new hair on mice using human “Pluripotent Stem Cells”, which derived from embryos or the foetal tissue. They could successfully transplant Dermal Papillae Cells from humans to the mice and made them grow human hair.
It is speculated that the same technique, when used on humans, will be more successful than hair transplant surgeries.
But there is a catch.
- 1. It is not easy collecting a large number of Dermal Papillae cells. These can only be gathered in small quantities. This is the reason why they are not suitable for hair transplants.
- 2. The cells can’t be used in hair transplant surgery because there is a limited time-frame required for cells to trigger hair follicle formation in culture.
And there’s hope.
The scientists say that they have developed a method in which Human Pluripotent Stem Cells will be able to generate new cells. These cells, in turn, will be able to initiate human hair growth and bring a change in the existing hair transplant surgeries. This is good news for those who have limited a number of existing hair follicles or donor sites and can’t opt for hair transplant.
As the part of their research, the team of scientists will conduct human trials where the cells will be transplanted into humans instead of mice.
Link Between Hair Loss and Immune System
In another research, scientists from Spanish National Cancer Research Centre have discovered a connection between hair loss and immune system of the body. According to their study, macrophages are useful in stimulating stem cells and subsequently, hair growth.
The team was successful in getting the microphages activate the stem cells present in hair follicles on the non-inflamed skin. This accidental discovery was made when the team of researchers came across a sudden side-effect of hair regrowth in mice, which had been given anti-inflammatory drugs.
This study too can be effective for humans. However, there is further research that needs to be done to establish an advanced treatment for hair loss related to autoimmune diseases such as Alopecia Areata.
Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Therapy for Hair Loss
- Stem cell therapy is already being used to treat a wide range of diseases. It is slowly gaining a foothold but still has a long way to go as far as regenerative medicine is concerned.
- Because the stem cell research based drugs are tested directly on humans through clinical trials, the findings are going to be more reliable.
- The risk of rejection is minimal in stem cell therapy.
- On the flipside, stem cell therapy involves destroying blastocytes.
- Long-term and short-term side-effects for stem cell therapy is yet to be known.
Stem cell treatment for hair loss seems to be an effective cure. But is it really the panacea that we have been looking for? Will it become as commonplace as we want it to be? Or maybe, there is still a long way to go? Let’s wait and watch!