“Stem cells” has been a buzzword in the past few decades and both ordinary people and medical experts have been dreaming of solving all unsolved medical problems, using the promises given by stem cell-related researchers.
Hair loss, which is a common problem among people around the world, keeping millions of minds busy and hopeless, is also a field that stem cell studies have lots to say about. Stem cell hair transplantation or hair cloning is an ultimate hope for dermatologists and people suffering from baldness to overcome permanent hair loss.
However, despite an enormous leap in the scientific findings, this treatment is still in its infancy and more studies and innovations could make it ready for the public.
What Is a Stem Cell Hair Transplant?
To answer this question, we need to first discuss what stem cells are?
Stem cells are cells that have the ability to differentiate into many types of cells present in the body. These cells are unspecialized cells that cannot perform certain functions in the body.
They may, however, divide and replenish themselves to remain stem cells or to become other types of cells, aiding in the healing of specific tissues in the body by proliferating and replacing damaged cells.
How Does Stem Cell Hair Transplant Work?
A stem cell hair transplant works in the same way as a conventional hair transplant. A stem cell hair transplant, on the other hand, removes a tiny skin sample from which hair follicles are collected rather than removing a significant number of hairs to transplant to the region of hair loss.
The follicles are then reproduced in a lab and implanted back into the scalp in hair-loss regions. This permits hair to grow both where the follicles were extracted and where they are transplanted.
At the present, stem cell hair transplants are simply a notion. The investigation is underway. Stem cell hair transplants are expected to be accessible in the 2020s.
The Procedure of Stem Cells Hair Transplant
The treatment begins with a punch biopsy to harvest the person’s stem cells. A punch biopsy is conducted by inserting a circular blade into the skin and rotating it to extract a cylindrical sample of tissue.
The stem cells are then extracted from the tissue using a centrifuge, which is a piece of specialized equipment. It leaves a cell suspension, which is subsequently injected back into the scalp in hair-loss regions.
To extract the stem cells from the fat so that they may be injected into the scalp, a specific procedure is needed. This treatment takes about 3 hours.
When Will Stem Cell Hair Transplant Be Available?
It seems hair cloning or hair transplant using stem cells won’t be available in near future. They cannot be offered to the public at an affordable price by 2030. However, a handful of research groups have dived into this subject and have extended the boundaries of science in this field. One of the well-known initial attempts for hair cloning research was carried out by a renowned British company, Intercytex (1). Despite several steps of trials, Intercytex backed off from this project in 2008.
Berlin Technical University also developed a research team to develop the technology of hair transplantation using stem cells or hair cloning in 2010, which ran into problems with the multiplication process which was not sufficient enough and could not figure out how to deal with it (2).
One of the latest studies on hair cloning is being done by Stemson Therapeutics, a pre-clinical stage cell therapy company founded in 2018 with a mission to cure hair loss by leveraging the regenerative power of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) (3). Using iPSC-derived epithelial and dermal cell therapy, they were able to effectively grow hair on mice. The hair grew straight and was perfectly aligned thanks to a 3D-printed biodegradable shaft. The hairs were permanent and naturally renewed. Trials were expected to begin in 2020, according to the firm (4).
Is Hair Cloning FDA Approved?
Currently, several facilities are providing stem cell hair transplants to the public. These have not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States (FDA). They are classified as investigational.
The FDA issued a warning regarding stem cell treatments in 2017. The caution urges anybody thinking about stem cell treatments to select those that have been authorized by the FDA or are being investigated under an Investigational New Drug Application (IND). INDs are approved by the FDA.
How Much Does Stem Cells Hair Transplant Cost?
Since stem cell hair transplants are still in the research phases, no medical center has calculated its cost per operation.
The cost of some of the experimental stem cell hair restoration treatments provided by various clinics ranges from $3,000 to $10,000. The final cost is determined by the kind and amount of hair loss being treated (5).
Hair Transplant vs Hair Cloning (Stem Cells Hair Transplant): Which One Is Better?
As hair cloning is still in the study phases, it cannot be compared with hair transplants which have been applied clinically to millions of people. Additionally, hair cloning can be considered a complementary technology for hair transplantation, which makes any comparison meaningless.
At the moment, hair transplantation is an established method with a success rate above 96% (in accredited clinics). Millions of people have gained natural hair by having a hair transplant and there are some hair transplant centers, which offer this service at an affordable price, with natural results, and minimum incision possible.
However, hair transplants have limitations as they rely on donor areas for providing hair follicles to be transplanted to the recipient sites. Hair restoration experts believe that as soon as stem cells hair transplant gets commercial and mature enough and, they can avoid mega-harvesting hair restoration surgeries.
Stem Cells Hair Transplant: Side Effects and Risks
There is limited information available on the potential adverse effects of stem cell hair transplants. There is always the danger of bleeding or infection at the location of the sample and the injection, as with any medical treatment. Scarring is another possibility.
Though problems from a punch biopsy are uncommon, there is little chance of nerve or artery injury underneath the spot. Liposuction can have the same side effects and problems as liposuction (6). According to some scientists, hair cloning causes cells to mutate and can turn them into cancerous cells. As a result, unless scientists reduce these risks and dagers, medical authorities won’t approve hair cloning as a medical treatment.
Who Can Benefit From Stem Cells Hair Transplants?
According to some studies, stem cell hair transplants can be beneficial in treating a variety of hair loss issues, including:
- Male Pattern Baldness
- Female Pattern Baldness
- Cicatricial Alopecia
It also might be useful for people who have undergone more than one hair transplant session and have not achieved satisfactory results.
Is Stem Cells Hair Transplant Similar to PRP Hair Treatment?
Platelet-Rich Plasma treatment is a method, in which one’s blood is taken and then injected into the scalp after a process. This is a supportive treatment and does not have any transplantation characteristics as hair transplant centers offer it to improve hair transplant results. However, autologous micrograft treatment (also known as Regenera-Activa), which uses hair follicles to extract stem cells has some resemblance to PRP hair loss treatment.
Dr. Cinik Hair Transplant Clinic
Located in Istanbul, the capital of hair transplant centers, Dr. Cinik Hair Transplant is a medical center with a wide variety of services to treat hair loss, baldness, and hair thinning. Stem Cells hair therapy, also known as Regenera Activa is one of the services this clinic offers. It is a method for stimulating hair growth and boosting recovery after a hair transplant, especially among women suffering from hair loss.
With its promising outlook, stem cell hair transplants seem to disrupt current methods of the fight with hair loss and raise the bar in the hair restoration field. However, as it is in its infancy, and has a long way to get approvals from authorities such as FDA, it has a long way to go.
Within a decade, we might witness the introduction of commercially applicable hair cloning, and enjoy the natural, permanent, and high-quality results it will bring.