- Best Results6-8 months
- Treatment Recovery1day
- Procedure Time60 minutes
- Skin SpecialistDermatologist
- Duration of ResultsUnknown
- AnaestheticNi required
- Back to Work1 day
Stem Cell Therapy for Hair Loss
Stems sound great, may work for some, but results are not predictable. Stem cells are all the trend as they are a ‘natural’ method of treating hair loss & rejuvenation of the skin. The most popular therapy is nano fat derived from adipose or fat tissue. I also harvest donor cells from the back part of the ear, & re-inject the solution into areas of thinning hair. Results are marginal at best.
FactsFacts on Stem Cell Therapy
- This includes germ cells of the hair, oil gland, smooth muscle, endothelial cells, neural & connective tissue
- To from a viable hair stem require differentiation to cells that constitute to the follicular unit
- Stem cells can differentiate into many different cell types
- The most common way to harvest stem cells is via fat or adipose tissue
- We still have a long way to go for predictable clinical outcomes
- Stem cells are not FDA approved
What are stem cells?
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to develop into different types of cells found in the human body, including skin & scalp tissue. These cells are able to divide and renew themselves to either stay stem cells or become other types of cells. Stem cells in the context of hair loss can, in theory, develop into viable hair follicles.
It gets more complicated than just the hair shaft itself, as stem cells need to divide & form all elements of the follicular unit. This includes the germ cells that give rise to the follicle as well as stem cells that differentiate into the oil or sebaceous gland, the smooth muscle cells of the follicle called the arrector pili muscle, the nerves, vessels (neural tissue, endothelial cells) surrounding the follicular unit as well as fibroblasts that produce the connective tissue network surrounding the entire follicle.
Who provides the stem cells?
As of 2021 there are five methods to get stem cells.
With certain forms of cancer, stem cells are used from a health donor. This entails a close donor match (usually from a relative). In order to reduce the chances of graft rejection, your entire immune system is wiped out with chemotherapy. Obviously this is pretty full on for treating hair loss. Let’s consider the other four methods.
The first and most common method is known as adipocyte derived stem cells. This is the method I use to treat acne, traumatic & burn scars. Sounds high tech, but ironically, it’s pretty simple. I harvest fat from the abdominal & flank areas. This fat is washed, then processed. A fraction of the fat high in stem cells is injected into the areas of concern. These stem cells have the potential to develop into other cells (in theory). In the context of regenerative medicine & scar tissue, we aim for fibroblasts, keratinocytes & pigment producing melanocytes. In the context of hair loss, we aim for hair follicles. Sounds great? Read more.
Second method is to remove a sample of skin from the donor site (next to an area of hair loss). This DNA sample is then grown in a laboratory, & the cells re-injected back several weeks to months later. This process is offered in overseas countries including India & Asia.
The third method is called adipose derived stem cell constituent extract or ADSC-CE. A novel derivative of this method is to harvest stem cells & dermal tissue from the back of the ear. I use this method to harvest fibroblast & collagen for dermal grafting. This is processed in a container & the solution re-injected back into the areas of thinning.
A fourth method is the use of animal derived stem cells called Calecim. This novel treatment uses deer (yup Ruldolf) derived umbilical stems bottled in a nice pink solution.
What is fat transfer - adipose derived stem cells?
ASC or adipose stem cells have some merit (minor) in the context of skin rejuvenation, however the cost-benefit ratio in the context of hair restoration does not add up. The benefit of autologous fat transfer has been proven to be safe and well tolerated. As injectable products are natural and organic there are no issues such as allergies. This follicular regenerative treatment can, in theory, improve hair counts & diameter.
It can be done after hair transplant surgery to maintain or enhance the results or as a stand-alone (without hair transplant). Results are visible after six months and show a visible improvement in hair growth and hair thickness as cells stimulate the underlying hair follicles. IMO the use of medical therapy, microneedling & PRP is less invasive, more effective & much more cost effective than harvesting stems from liposuction.
Where do I harvest stems from?
My go to site is the flanks-abdomen. This process is performed under local anesthesia. The method involves harvesting fat cells through liposuction. The collected fat is then converted to a liquid called Nanofat. This enriched fat is highly concentrated with stem cells. This concentrated mix of adipose stem cells is then injected back to the patient’s areas of the scalp.
Patients can go home the same day. Mild to moderate swelling may be experimented the day after, but patients are presentable the next day without any noticeable changes to the appearance of the scalp.
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What do the papers say?
Tough to answer as there are some good resorts & many conflicting studies. If you look at the data, the statistics are there, but it does not convert to clinically significant outcomes. I do use fat for facial rejuvenation, but only in large volume deficits. In the context of stem cell rejuvenation, the after-effects in the context of hair growth are probably less than the effects with PRP & microneedling. I think we still have a long way to go.
What are the side effects associated with stem cell therapy?
Not many side effects, especially if fat is injected with a cannula (reduces fat in an artery). The biggest side effect is the cost of this procedure between $4500 to $9000 for a treatment that may work is not a good investment. If it does work, it is not going to give you a full head of hair. PRP & simple microneedling at a fraction of the cost will give much better results for most.
Davin’s Viewpoint on Stem Cells & Hair Restoration
Stems- the buzz word. I use stems on a regular basis in the context of nanofat & fat transfer. I do think it has some benefit in the context of volumetric correction (transfer itself, not stems), I do think the effects on cellular regeneration are marginal at best. In the future we will have a better understanding of how to effectively utilize stem cells to regenerate tissue. We have a long way to go.
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