Stem cell research has been touted as a potential cure for hair loss for some time now, what is the latest? We take a closer look.
In case you have been avoiding any and all scientific reading for years we will briefly explain what a stem cell is. They are the embryonic starting position for all life, we all begin as a small bundle of “pluripotent” cells. That is, cells which have the capacity to develop into any other type of cell in the human body… Brain, lung, heart, teeth, eyes and of course hair follicles. They were first identified by a couple of Canadian scientists, Till and McCulloch, who were studying bone marrow in mice and observed cells that self generated. It would take nearly 30 years from that point until, in 1998, a team developed a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow those cells in a laboratory.
Bump In The Road
Under enormous pressure from the religious right President George Bush signed an executive order, requiring no vote in Congress or the Senate, which banned federally funded stem cell research on embryonic stem cells. While this did not halt the research it certainly slowed things down.
Fortunately for stem cell research the USA is not the only game in town, the executive order simply shifted the research abroad to Europe, the East and the Middle East. That research has led to a much improved understanding of their processes. We now know that stem cells self generate in certain conditions within the body (or in the lab) to produce daughter cells which can self-renew… into either more stem cells or they can differentiate to become specialised cells. Stem cells are found throughout the body in bone, skin, marrow and fat.
Las year Italian researchers performed the first “successful” transplant of hair stem cells. It was considered a success because everything went according to procedure. The scalp of the patient was punctured to retrieve stem cells, those cells are then multiplied in vitro and the larger population of cells is injected back into the scalp in the region affected by the hair loss.
State of Play
Today there are many clinics working on stem cell research as it relates to hair loss. The result is a multi faceted approach with a wide range of techniques… one uses liposuction to retrieve body fat, which is then stripped of its stem cells before they are injected into the scalp.
The fact is that all these techniques ultimately face the same challenge. Nobody has yet worked out the issue of orientation of the new follicles,which can grow out in any direction.
HIS Hair Clinic
We scour the news on a daily basis for updates on any and all of these research projects. We recognise that this is the bleeding edge of medical research and many of these projects will fail at trial, so it is notable that none of them have yet applied for FDA approval. That does not mean there are not stem cell techniques on offer, just that none of them have been through thorough double blind clinical trials which satisfy the FDA. When that changes we will be shouting it from the rooftops.
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