Marc Darrow MD, JD 

In this article I will offer a brief explanation of how stem cell therapy can work for hair growth.

In a May 2019 study in the medical journal Cells (1), researchers discussed the use of stem cells to improve hair regrowth, including reversing hair loss by regeneration of hair follicles.

The learning points of this research are:

  • Stem cell therapy is a new approach to treating hair loss.
  • Methods using donated stem cells are being tested in cell treatment clinical trials.
  • Intra-surgical cell treatments that incorporate autologous cell-based treatments (such as bone marrow) with a one-step approach (cell harvesting, minimal manipulation, and immediate injection) into a single technique “offer tremendous potential” to patients with hair loss

In our office we offer bone marrow derived stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells plus platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP), and PRP therapy alone for hair loss. This article will not necessarily compare one treatment to another. This discussion is best offered in the examination room when we have had the opportunity to access the hair loss of the patient. What this article will focus on is the common aspects of these three treatments and how they can promote hair growth.

A brief explanation of the three treatments.

  • Bone marrow stem cells are taken from your bone marrow drawn from the iliac crest of the pelvis in a simple procedure. The bone marrow contains stem cells and the healing growth factors found in PRP therapy.
  • Umbilical cord stem cells are donated stem cells, The material in the injections that we use for our umbilical cord blood stem cell therapy comes from full-term live birth deliveries in a hospital setting. These materials are the umbilical cord blood from the discarded placenta, and of course, the umbilical cord itself. The umbilical cord materials do not come from an aborted fetus nor are they taken from the baby. These materials are donated by the birth mother to the hospital for continuing medical research and for the development of medical products to help others. No baby is harmed. These stem cells are combined with the blood platelets we get from you.
  • PRP treatments involve collecting a small amount of your blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the red cells. The collected platelets are then injected into an area of thinning hair. This stimulates hair regeneration in many people. The treatment is aptly named Platelet Rich Plasma therapy as it is blood plasma that is rich is platelets.

Getting the stem cells in your hair follicles and “bulge,” to start growing hair again.

In August of 2018 researchers writing in the journal Stem cells international (2) discussed the role of stem cells in treating Alopecia by way of hair follicle regeneration and neoregeneration.

Here are their learning points:

  • Hair follicles have a niche for mature stem cells—hair follicular stem cells (HFSCs)—a so-called “bulge” in the attachment region of arrector pili muscles, (the small muscles attached to hair follicles). (Note: There are stem cells in your hair. They are just not active – see below).
  • HFSCs can take part in the regeneration of epidermal cells and the structure of hair follicles and sebaceous glands (these glands secrete the hair oil that healthy hair needs.)
  • The researchers explain that: Stem cells of the “bulge” can remain in their niche where they self-regenerate, but they can also move down to the hair matrix region, where they become progenitor cells which then form an internal hair follicle and the hair stem.
    • In other words, the stem cells can become the building block of new hair when active.
  • There is a second type of stem cells within the hair follicle. The dermal papilla cells (DPCs) DPCs play an important role in induction and regulation of hair growth and the formation of new hair follicles Signals from DPCs activate stem cells in the “bulge” to start hair growth.

The researchers point out that most of these stem cells live in a “dormant state,” and that their activation is essential for hair growth.

Activating these stem cells

In numerous articles on this website I discuss how stem cells and growth factors introduced into damaged joints activate the native stem cells in that joint to restart the healing process. This is no different when it comes to hair. We know that there are many stem cells in the hair follicle, so the problem is not the number of stem cells, BUT, a problem of getting these dormant cells active again and growing hair.

In the research we started this article with from May 2019, a listing of the common growth factors of stem cells and PRP therapy is given: Here is a description of these growth factors and what they do. This is how we can get the stem cells in the hair and the stem cells introduced in the treatment active – by the introduction of growth factors and “communicator” cells in the treatment.

  • Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and HGF activator enhance the proliferation of hair follicle epithelial cells. (The stem cells send signals for hair to grow).
  • Epidermal growth factor improves the activity and growth of follicle outer-root sheath cells
  • Basic fibroblast growth factor b-FGF  improves the advancement of hair follicles
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) improves peri-follicular angiogenesis (new blood vessels to get new blood and more growth factors to the site prior to and to get ready to support new hair growth).
  • Transforming growth factor beta TGF-β stimulates the signaling pathways that manage the HC (Hair growth cycle). TGF-β gives structure to the hair growth cycle. It orders the new blood vessels to “barren” areas. It creates the communication network between the native and new stem cells and growth factors so “everyone is working in unison.” It orders the stem cells to get to areas where growth can occur.
  • Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) improves the migration, survival, and proliferation of hair follicle cells. It does so with the help of Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-1 to -6 which manages the IGF-1 effect and its connection with extracellular matrix proteins (collagens) at the hair follicle level.

There are many other growth factors involved, the list above are some of the primary ones. As you can see from this list the introduction of these growth factors whether from the bone marrow stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells plus PRP, or from the PRP treatment alone, stimulates native stem cells and native growth factors to “reboot,” the hair growth mechanism.

Do you have questions? Ask Dr. Darrow


A leading provider of stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma and prolotherapy
11645 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD SUITE 120, LOS ANGELES, CA 90025

PHONE: (800) 300-9300 or 310-231-7000

Stem cell and PRP injections for musculoskeletal conditions are not FDA approved. We do not treat disease. We do not offer IV treatments. There are no guarantees that this treatment will help you. Prior to our treatment, seek advice from your medical physician. There is controversy in the medical community about whether umbilical cord blood stem cells are alive or dead, and which type of stem cell may be appropriate.

Neither Dr. Darrow, nor any associate, offer medical advice from this transmission. This information is offered for educational purposes only. The transmission of this information does not create a physician-patient relationship between you and Dr. Darrow or any associate. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, usefulness or adequacy of any resource, information, product, or process available from this transmission. We cannot be responsible for the receipt of your email since spam filters and servers often block their receipt. If you have a medical issue, please call our office. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911.

References:

1 Gentile P, Garcovich S. Advances in Regenerative Stem Cell Therapy in Androgenic Alopecia and Hair Loss: Wnt pathway, Growth-Factor, and Mesenchymal Stem Cell Signaling Impact Analysis on Cell Growth and Hair Follicle Development. Cells. 2019 May 16;8(5):466. doi: 10.3390/cells8050466. PubMed PMID: 31100937; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6562814.
2 Owczarczyk-Saczonek A, Krajewska-Włodarczyk M, Kruszewska A, Banasiak Ł, Placek W, Maksymowicz W, Wojtkiewicz J. Therapeutic Potential of Stem Cells in Follicle Regeneration. Stem Cells Int. 2018 Aug 5;2018:1049641. doi: 10.1155/2018/1049641. PubMed PMID: 30154860; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6098866.