Is there a stem cell treatment for baldness or hair loss? A research study from Yale University suggests that baldness can be reversed with the use of stem cells from “fat cells in the skin” which can stimulate “dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles” thus encouraging hair to grow.
However, before we get our hopes up, we should be aware that this “cure” which apparently worked on mice under laboratory conditions is not guaranteed to work on human beings facing real life hair-loss problems. Moreover, before we go jumping with joy (a-la Tom Cruise on the Oprah Show) because we can now beat receding hairlines, we should remember that the Yale researchers are only SUGGESTING the possibility that stem cells can cure baldness. They are NOT claiming to have found a stem cell treatment for hair loss. In fact, they still have to identify the equivalent fat cells on humans which would trigger hair regrowth.
We’re making these reminders so those of us with hair problems won’t be misled by snake oil salespeople who misuse the Yale study and come knocking at your doors claiming that they can make your hair grow by injecting stem cells into your forehead.
Anyhoo, for the studious Hermione Grangers among us who are interested in how the researchers conducted their study and what they found out, here’s a BBC Health report:
They looked at defective mice which could not produce these fat cells. Hair normally grows in cycles, but in the defective mice – the follicles had become trapped in the dormant phase of the cycle.
Scientists injected fat cells from healthy mice into the defective mice. Two weeks later, hair follicles had started to grow.
They showed that precursor fat cells were producing a chemical – a platelet-derived growth factor – at 100 times the level of surrounding cells.
Injecting the growth factor into the skin of defective mice could kick-start growth in 86% of follicles.
Promising, no? But as we were saying, what works on lab mice do not always work on human beings. Secondly, the scientists who made this study are themselves not sure whether this will lead to a cure for baldness. Says Valerie Horsley, the lead author of the study, “We don’t know for sure if it’s a cure for baldness. But I’m hopeful that we can get human cells to do the same as the mice cells.”
We are, of course, as hopeful as she is but, for us consumers and patients, its prudent to couple our hopefulness with a dose of caution so we won’t fall prey to the unscrupulous snake oil salespeople we mentioned earlier.
Note: The study, written by Eric Festa, Jackie Fretz, Ryan Berry, Barbara Schmidt, Matthew Rodeheffer, Mark Horowitz, and Valerie Horsley, was published on the 02 September 2011 issue of the journal Cell.
For our other posts on hair loss and hair treatment, check out the effectiveness of Minoxidil. You might also want to check out the Intra-Cylane botox for hair which, as is common with products like this, may or may not work as promised.