A Cure For Baldness : Stem Cells Could Be The Answer For Hair Loss Sufferers

A breakthrough in stem cell technology could mean the end of hair loss woes

One in four women suffer from some degree of hair loss or thinning hair. In men, balding can begin as early as the age of 21, and by the age of 35, 30% of men will already be experiencing noticeable balding.

Hair loss, particularly male pattern balding is largely determined by genes, and alopecia areata (hair loss in one area of the scalp) affects about one in 100 individuals. More than 60% of hair loss sufferers say they would rather have more hair than money or friends, which gives you an insight into the negative impact of losing your hair. Hair loss, particularly in women and in younger men, can lead to depression and low self-esteem.

One of the major hair loss treatments currently in existence is hair transplantation, where individual hair follicles from the back of the head are painstakingly transplanted one by one to the area of balding. This process is very difficult and expensive, and is limited by the abundance of existing hair follicles. Other treatments including laser stimulation, pills, serums and shampoos all show limited hair regrowth and do not work well on scalp areas that are completely bare.

Current techniques also include the use of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, where a person's restorative platelets are harvested from the blood, then concentrated and injected at the site where healing or rejuvenation is needed. Although this is a technique that is beneficial for those who suffer from hair loss and thinning through non-genetic causes, it cannot help to regrow hair where hair follicles no longer exist.

In a recent breakthrough, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, California scientists have used human stem cells to grow hair in mice.

"The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another," according to one of the researchers, Dr. Alexey Terskikh. "Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn't limited by the availability of existing hair follicles."

The technique was developed using human pluripotent stem cells, a form of embryonic stem cells that have the potential to become any type of cells in the body. The stem cells were cultured to form dermal papilla cells, which are cells responsible for hair-follicle formation and regulation of hair growth cycles.

"Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects," said Terskikh. "We are currently seeking partnerships to implement this final step." The research is still at its early stages, but shows promise for a treatment that would be available even for those areas and persons who are totally hairless.

--- Cosmetic Medicine, MD

Dr. Liow Tiong Sin is an aesthetic practitioner who practices in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, Malaysia. He has more than 15 years of expertise with non-surgical cosmetic treatments, and conducts training courses in many aesthetic fields for other doctors from all around Asia.
To connect with Dr. Liow, Like Cosmedmd's Facebook page, visit Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre's website at http://www.beverlywilshiremedical.com or drop him an email at cosmedmd@gmail.com

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