Topical Stem Cell Treatment Offers Hope As Hair Replacement Therapy

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Rachael Funnell 19 May 2020, 22:53

A clinical trial published in the journal STEM CELLS Translational Medicine has detailed a novel therapy for hair loss that uses stem cells to initiate hair growth in people who have lost their hair. The treatment involves a topical solution applied to the scalp, correcting common types of hair loss such as male- (or female)-pattern baldness.

The official name for this kind of hair loss is androgenetic alopecia (AGA), which is a condition caused by genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors. Around half of all men are affected by it, as well as almost half of women above the age of 50, representing millions of individuals worldwide. It’s not a harmful condition and isn’t necessarily something that requires treatment, but for some it can negatively impact their self-esteem and in turn their psychological well-being.

There are existing treatments for AGA currently approved by the FDA, but in men these have been found to be associated with loss of libido and erectile dysfunction, demonstrating there is still some way to go in establishing a safe and effective treatment for all sexes. Recent studies have shown that adipose derived stem cells (ADSCs) secrete growth hormones that help cells to proliferate and promote hair growth. 

“However, no randomized, placebo-controlled trial in humans has explored the effects and safety of adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract (ADSC-CE) in AGA," said Dr Sang Yeoup Lee, of the Family Medicine Clinic and Research Institute of Convergence of Biomedical Science and Technology, Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital in South Korea, in a statement. "We aimed to assess the efficacy and tolerability of ADSC-CE in middle-aged patients with AGA in our study, hypothesizing that it is an effective and safe treatment agent.”

The team recruited 29 men and nine women with AGA and split these into two, with one group receiving the ADSC-CE topical solution and the other a placebo. The treatment and placebo solutions were both prescribed to be applied twice daily and each patient was reviewed after 16 weeks. Those with the stem cell solution were found to have a significant increase in both hair count and the thickness of the hair follicles.

"Our findings suggest that the application of the ADSC-CE topical solution has enormous potential as an alternative therapeutic strategy for hair regrowth in patients with AGA, by increasing both hair density and thickness while maintaining adequate treatment safety,” said Dr Lee. “The next step should be to conduct similar studies with large and diverse populations in order to confirm the beneficial effects of ADSC-CE on hair growth and elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the action of ADSC-CE in humans."

Though the treatment requires further testing before being made available to the wider public, it offers a glimmer of hope for those afflicted by the psychological impacts of hair loss, representing an exciting avenue of research for better hair loss treatments in the future.

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