Will stem cell treatments replace hair loss restoration surgery?

Scientists have grown liver, brain and other organ stills using stem cells. Might they use stem cells to regenerate hair growth on the scalp? Right now the only effective way to treat significant hair loss is through hair loss restoration surgery. Currently, there are two methods.

With follicular unit transplant, a thin strip of scalp is removed from the back of the head where hair growth is dense. Then, the hair follicles containing from one to four hairs are removed from this donor scalp and transplanted into the front and top of the scalp (or where hair is sparse). With follicular unit extraction–called the individual graft technique at DiStefano (IGT™)–individual follicles are extracted one at a time from the back of the scalp. There is no incision and no strip of tissue is removed. People choose follicular unit extraction over follicular unit transplant because there is no linear scar at the back of the scalp as there is with a follicular unit transplant.

Researchers are beginning to look at using stem cells to re-grow hair. Called the Repli-Cel technique, researchers are removing follicles from the back of the scalp where hair is naturally resistant to male pattern baldness. They then take these follicles and isolate what are called dermal sheath cup cells. These cells are then replicated by the millions over three months and then injected in the top of the scalp.

The effectiveness of this research is in the early stages and the researchers hope to do a clinical study in Germany with 120 German men to prove its effectiveness. However, there is currently no FDA approved stem cell treatment available for hair loss. If the treatment is proved safe and effective in Europe over the coming years, there may come a time when stem cell hair loss treatments come to the U.S. However, this possibility is still years away. Until that happens, DiStefano Hair Loss Restoration Centers recommends follicular unit transplant or follicular unit extraction (IGT™) as the best methods to treat significant permanent hair loss.