EXPERT GUIDE

Stem Cell Hair Transplant

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Sternberg Written by David Stelzer on 9 Feb 2021

Many hair restoration experts believe the next major breakthrough in the hair transplant industry has arrived in the form of stem cell research. The ability to create hair grafts from stem cells solves the largest problem patients have when wanting to get a hair transplant, the lack of donor hair.

With this method it does not matter how sparse a patient’s hair is, there will be available hair to transplant and properly fill the balding areas.

In a Nutshellsvg

Release 2022 - 2023 svg
Cost ~$30,000 svg
Result +29% density svg

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are non-specialized cells found in the body which do fulfill a specific purpose or function. They have the ability to either continue their life cycle and duplicate as stem cells, or they can develop into a different type of cell with a new function.

This potential to differentiate and develop into new types of cells has sparked lots of medical research into their use for creating donor organs. This research has entered the hair transplant industry as well in the last decade or so.

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How do stem cell hair transplants work?

The stem cell hair transplant process begins with a punch biopsy being taken to extract the stem cells from the patient. A small, round piece of tissue is removed with a blade for the stem cells to be separated from. This is done with a special machine called a centrifuge. The extraction process for stem cell hair transplants does not damage the hair in the typical donor area, located at the back of the head.

The surgeons then use 3D-printing to replicate the shape and design of a hair follicle. The stem cells are then introduced to the 3D-printing to direct the stem cells’ growth into cells for a hair follicle. However, there are still issues with directing the stem cells to grow in the patient’s natural hair color and texture. Surgeons hope to develop the technology to replicate a patient’s hair characteristics in the future. The stem cells which have differentiated into hair follicles are then implanted into the scalp similarly to normal methods of hair transplantation.

In many cases surgeons are not able to create a full, dense appearance of hair using the extracted hair follicles from the donor area. This is because patients don’t always have enough hair in their donor area to conceal the bald areas. Using stem cells solves this issue and allows the surgeon to create new hair follicles to implant. The very first successful stem cell hair transplant was performed in 2017 by Italian researchers.

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Stem cells vs. Hair cloning

Hair cloning involves extracting healthy hair follicles from the scalp and creating copies of them to be transplanted in the patient’s bald areas. Instead of traditional cloning of an entire organism this process only clones the hair follicles.

This is different than stem cell hair transplantation as stem cells are used to grow brand new hair follicles from undifferentiated cells. Hair cloning copies the hair follicles exactly, including replicating color and texture. The process of extracting hair follicles for cloning is similar to the extraction process of a normal hair transplant procedure. This contrasts with the unique method used to extract stem cells with a biopsy punch.

Experts believe these treatments will both start to become widely available within the next five to ten years for patients to pursue at hair restoration clinics.

Stem cell hair transplant side effects

Due to the relatively short time research into stem cell hair transplants has been around, there is little known about the side effects from this procedure. As far as researchers have been able to tell there are very similar side effects to normal kinds of hair transplants.

Minimal scarring can be expected from the extraction process. Slight swelling and bleeding can be expected on the head after implantation. There is a small risk of nerve or artery damage as well as infection from the biopsy punch.

The FDA had released a warning about stem cell hair transplants in 2017. They advise patients looking into stem cell hair therapies to only pursue therapies which have already been approved by the FDA or are currently being studied as an Investigational New Drug Application.

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Cost of stem cell hair transplants

Due to stem cell hair transplants still being in the research stage, they are not widely available and have not established a set price range. The various clinics which offer investigational stem cell hair transplants have had prices around roughly 30,000 USD, these hair loss treatments are very expensive as the technology is new and the procedure is quite complicated. As the years go on and stem cell therapies are adopted by more clinics the price of the procedure will decrease, we anticipate when the technique is more widespread it will cost between 10,000 USD and 15,000 USD for the treatment. As with other methods of hair transplantation, factors like the extent of hair loss will determine the final price of the treatment. The more extensive the hair loss, the more expensive the hair transplant will become.

Stem cell hair transplant success rate

Current research on stem cell hair transplants is very promising and optimistic in terms of success rate. The Italian researchers who performed a successful stem cell hair transplant in 2017 which showed a 29 percent increase in hair density roughly five months after the procedure.

The clinics not currently approved by the FDA for their stem cell therapies cannot make guaranteed promises about their success rate or the results a patient can expect.

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Stem cell hair transplant recovery time

Patients can expect the same general recovery time and process from a stem cell hair transplant in comparison to the traditional methods of hair transplantation.

Minor pain can be expected for a week or two after the transplant as the extraction and implantation wounds heal. Exercise should be avoided for at least a week after the hair transplant. It is advised patients don’t expose their heads to direct sunlight for several months after the procedure either.

Some scarring and pain may persist for a slightly longer amount of time in the extraction area as the surgeon has to make a deeper cut.

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Conclusion

Experts are hopeful this method of hair transplantation will be FDA approved and more widely available by 2022 for patients across the world. This would open up hair transplantation as an option for many people who aren’t candidates for traditional hair transplant methods. This solves the issue of a lack of donor area hair. Patients could get the full dense appearance they wish to see in their hair with the help of stem cells.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does stem cell hair transplant cost?

Can stem cells cure baldness?

When will stem cell hair transplant be available?

Sources

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