We might be getting close to a hair loss cure. That’s the sentiment at least, from a team of researchers who published their finding that stem cells grew hair when transplanted in mice. Factor that in with other improvements in hair loss treatment technology and it’s an exciting time for the follicely-challenged.
But we’re not there yet. A hair loss cure remains the holy grail for the estimated 85% of American men who will suffer from male pattern baldness. Rogaine and Propecia can help preserve and possibly even grow new hair, but come with an unnerving series of side effects. And hair transplants, though improving, simply move hair around the scalp.
Stem Cell Hair Growth Looks Promising
To be blunt, the most promising hair loss cure looks to be with stem cell technology. That’s getting away from our ‘natural’ mandate here at Natural Health Source, but this may have legs. This method would provide an unlimited source of cells and is not limited by existing follicles – a stumbling block with existing hair transplant technology.
Call it human stem cell hair growth if you will. The technique uses pluripotent stem cells, which can be turned into almost any kind of cell the body produces. The researchers turned these into dermal papilla cells – responsible for hair growth – and injected them into mice.
The mice then grew new hair, and provided the basis for further research into stem cell technology for a hair loss cure, with the next step being hair growth in humans.
This research builds on earlier work done with stem cells and their potential for hair growth. Last year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania converted pluripotent cells – the same kind involved in this most recent breakthrough – into those found in the outermost layer of hair follicles, called epithelial stem cells.
The latter produced skin cells found in hair follicles when injected in mice, indicating they might help regenerate hair in people with hair loss.
Hair Transplants Are Improving Too
Hair restoration with transplants is limited by existing follicles that can be transplanted to a donor (balding) area and are unsuitable for patients with extensive hair loss. They’ve been limited primarily to men as well, because female hair loss is typically more broad than the centralized alopecia so characteristic of male pattern balding.
But that’s changing for both parties. We’re seeing progress here too – a 2013 study found that cloned cells grew new hair when grown upside down. They knew what to do without genes or modifications – an obstacle in earlier research – and may be integrated into hair transplant technology within the decade.
And yet, you don’t have to wait ten years to enjoy the progress being made with hair transplants. Current technology allows surgeons to pack more hairs in each graft than was possible just five years ago. The procedure can be done in less time too.
A new hair transplant technology, called Neograft (also called micrografting and follicular unit extraction) takes out one follicle at a time. This allows for a very natural look, compared to transplants done 20 to 30 years ago, and may be of interest to the increasing number of women who pursue hair transplants to address female hair loss.
Existing Hair Loss Treatments
Neither Rogaine nor Propecia is a hair loss cure. They’re designed to slow hair loss and possibly lead to new hair growth. Both products are linked to health considerations though that should be considered. A natural hair loss treatment system called Profollica may be a better option.
Arguably the best-known hair loss medication, Rogaine (Minoxidil) was originally developed as a blood pressure medication. You’ll need to apply it topically and ongoing to maintain results.
Details: We still don’t know how Rogaine grows hair. There’s some speculation it may widen hair follicles and allow much-needed nutrients to circulate in thinning areas. This works best for frontal hair loss, typically seen in a receding hairline.
The Good: Rogaine should help you preserve existing hair. Start early, and keep using Rogaine, or you’ll soon doff your strands and they won’t come back.
The Bad: Rogaine works best for younger guys – they’re typically under 40. And being a medication, you’re still exposed to potential health risks, which can include head ache, swelling, light-headedness and rapid weight gain.
Use Rogaine If…You’re a younger man, in early stages of hair loss and your doctor clears you to use this popular hair loss medication.
Things can get ugly with Propecia because it has sexual side effects that may lead to further issues down the road. There’s no question it can help you reduce hair loss, and even grow new hair, but it may come at a price that’s too steep for your well-being.
Details: Propecia (Finasteride) is a prescription medication that interrupts conversion of DHT – a potent form of testosterone that kills off hair follicles in men prone to male pattern baldness.
The Good: Propecia works. A five year study of men using the medication found two-thirds of participants grew new hair. You can use it for multiple stages of genetic hair loss too, whether that’s at the hair line, crown or both.
The Bad: For many guys, the side effects of Propecia aren’t worth the payoff. They include depression, gynecomastia (man-breasts), higher risk of prostate cancer and sexual side effects that may be irreversible.
Use Propecia If…Don’t use Propecia if you’re a young guy who’d like to start a family. It’s that simple. Older men might try Propecia but stay in touch with their doctor and stop using this medication if things start going sideways in the bedroom.
A Hair Loss Cure Within the Decade
A cure is a way to reverse an ailment. We don’t have a cure for hair loss yet – existing medications like Rogaine and Propecia just slow the process, and hair transplants currently shuffle hair from one location to another. Neither is a cure – but we’re on the cusp of something big. If you’re a betting person, put your money on stem cell hair growth, which could merge with hair transplant technology to form that elusive hair loss cure that millions of guys (and a few women too!) are looking for.