Stem cell research, while controversial, continues to be an important area of scientific development, as stem cells have the potential to become any type of cell in the body.
A recent study by research company Samumed LLC
has shown that use of one specific stem cell treatment, known currently as SM04554, can regenerate new hair follicles and increase hair count in animal subjects in pre-clinical trials.
The trial now continues on human test subjects, and the first phase has produced promising results, with 75% of subjects reporting slowing of hair loss, and 37% reporting increased hair growth.
What could this mean?
The possibility of generating new hair follicles is very exciting in the world of hair loss, as it suggests a potential treatment for androgenetic alopecia, or male-pattern baldness.
In androgenetic alopecia
, as opposed to other forms of alopecia, the hair follicles die off completely, which means that most topical or even oral treatments have little to no effect, so the only options are hair transplant surgery or treatments like scalp-micropigmentation, which create the effect of hair, but do not solve the actual hair loss problem.
If we can generate new hair follicles, we can actually reverse the hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia.
Why is this better than a hair transplant?
Hair transplant surgery is a great solution for some, but it doesn't suit everyone. One major issue with hair transplants is that you have to wait until you have been receding for five years or more before you can go in for treatment.
This is to allow the surgeon to see how quickly you are receding, but it does not mean you will not need further surgeries in future – many men continue to recede behind the transplant area.
What about hair loss in women?
Female hair loss can also be caused by androgenetic alopecia – this is known as female-pattern baldness. Female-pattern baldness tends to present differently from male pattern baldness; rather than receding from the hairline, women tend to lose hair in a diffuse fashion all over.
This diffuse hair loss means that hair transplant surgery is not really an option for women, as there is no obvious donor area and the surgery itself would be lengthy and complicated. If stem cell treatment were to become a real option for treating hair loss, then women would be major beneficiaries.