Millions of men and women around the world begin showing signs of hair loss in middle age. By the time many of them reach their late 50s and early 60s, they are showing signs of baldness. Some are completely bald. So what can be done? New research indicates that a simple procedure to stimulate stem cells in hair follicles could be the solution.
For more than four decades, science has been looking for solutions to male pattern baldness and alopecia. Over the years, we have witnessed the development of treatments like hair replacement surgery and pharmaceutical products. And even though current treatments do work for some people, they do not work for everyone. Stem cell therapy may change that.
Stem Cells and Lactate
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) surmised that stem cell metabolism within hair follicles generally diminishes with age. They also considered whether stimulating stem cells to encourage them to produce more lactate would have any effect on hair growth. They set up experiments in laboratory mice to test their theory. It turns out the tests were successful.
By “genetically diminishing the entry of pyruvate into the mitochondria” of the affected cells, researchers were able to encourage those cells to increase lactate production. The increased lactate then went on to stimulate the stem cells to do what they normally do, thus causing more hair to grow more quickly.
Co-author William Lowery commented after the study that previous to the UCLA research, science had very little knowledge of the effect that increased or decreased lactate levels have on hair growth. He remarked that their research now opens the door to creating drugs that could be applied to the skin to create the same effect.
PRP Therapy for Baldness
While the UCLA researchers continue looking for pharmaceutical applications of their research, there are doctors across the country already using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to do essentially the same thing. PRP contains a number of growth factors that stimulate hair follicles to regrow hair by supplying them with the necessary nutrients and increased blood supply required.
Although it is not clear whether PRP injections increase lactate production or not, science does know that PRP signals the body to concentrate stem cells in a given site where they can then go to work to grow new tissue. Perhaps PRP injections stimulate stem cells in the same way lactate does. At any rate, PRP therapy has been an effective solution for many patients who have undergone the procedure.
Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), a Utah company that trains doctors in using PRP and stem cell therapies, says there are two ways to utilize PRP for hair growth. The first is to use single injections of PRP material directly into the scalp at targeted sites. The other is a process that uses a multiple needle device known as a dermaroller to apply PRP material across a larger area of the scalp.
For the record, all the PRP material used to treat male pattern baldness and alopecia is taken directly from the patient being treated. It is extracted through simple blood draw, followed by the blood being processed in a specialized centrifuge. The resulting material is then applied to the treatment site by a trained physician.
An End to Baldness
Between PRP injections and stimulating lactate production, it looks like science is making a lot of progress in combating male pattern baldness and alopecia. Could we be moving toward that day when baldness is eliminated? We will have to wait and see, but things look encouraging.