Did you know that an average American lose about 100 strands of hair every day? A person who suffers from alopecia could lose more daily, leading to progressive baldness.
Unfortunately, alopecia has no known cure. But scientists from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute may have developed an effective treatment to baldness among genetically susceptible patients. According to findings, which were published in the Journal PLOS ONE, researchers have developed a method wherein stem cells were used to generate new cells that initiate hair re-growth.
According to the study’s lead author Dr. Alexey Terskikh, an associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program at Sanford-Burnham, the method is more effective than any other hair loss treatments including hair transplant. The stem cell method may provide “an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.”
Using stem cells to treat a variety of diseases is not new at all. But it is the first time in a long time that scientists are excited over a hair loss treatment. Stem cells are a type of undifferentiated biological cells that can be transformed into specialized cells. These cells are able to generate more stem cells to trigger repair.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
When a patient suffers from alopecia, the hair is gone because the hair follicles are dying inexplicably. Stem cells are cells that trigger repair. Scientists were able to develop follicular stem cells, which are literally hair clones. The follicular stem cells are implanted directly into the patient’s scalp to produce hair.
The first experiment was conducted by a Japanese-owned research facility in 2008. The company announced that Phase 1 of the trial has begun and that implanted stem cells are producing new hair among balding patients.
Another cell therapy method is growing artificial hair follicles using a patient’s stem cells. Researchers predicted that by 2015, balding patients could restore hair using their own stem cells. The artificial hair follicles are grown in a lab before being surgically implanted into the scalp.
The Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Therapy
The Cure-All of the Future
One of the main advantages of stem cell therapy is that it is paving the way for regenerative medicine and cloning. If the technology and technique are perfected, stem cell therapy may one day treat a wide range of diseases and conditions including schizophrenia, cancer, diabetes and unexplained baldness.
Stem cell research allows scientists to develop new medicines and drugs without using animal or humans as test subjects. The drugs developed via stem cell research are not only safer, they are also tested directly to the public.
Reduced Risk of Rejection
Because the treatment utilizes a patient’s own stem cells, there is very little risk of rejection. The stem cells are typically harvested from a person’s body and then re-implanted to treat a certain ailment.
Destroys the Blastocytes
Stem cell treatments are done by destroying blastocytes, which are formed from the lab fertilization of the human egg.
Unknown Side Effects
The side effects and long-term response to stem cell therapy remain unknown. More research and tests are needed to determine the effects of the therapy among human subjects.