What is Stem Cell Therapy for Hair Loss?
This procedure for hair loss involves the injection of live nucleated stem cells which contain Mesenchymal stem cells, which come from human umbilical cord blood into the parts of the scalp affected by hair loss. They are not embryonic, which means they are not from an embryo. The umbilical cord blood where the cells are harvested come from pre planned Caesarian section live births. The procedure is a minimal invasive surgical procedure conducted 4 times over a four month period with no down time. After the cells are injected into the scalp hair growth will be seen at around the one month mark. Throughout the subsequent treatments patients will notice hair that is not only thicker but darker returning to the treated areas. Patients will continue to see re-growth of hair up to 6 months after the fourth and final treatment. The patient should be evaluated on an annual basis for subsequent maintenance treatments.
How are the Stem Cells processed, and are they safe to use?
The source of the stem cells, the umbilical cord blood, gets processed immediately in the hospital according to a protocol created by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Around 4 weeks before an already scheduled caesarean section, the mother is asked if she would prefer to keep and store her unborn child’s umbilical cord for herself. If she declines then she is given the option to donate it. If she agrees, there is an informed consent for her to sign and a thorough review of her entire medical history proceeds, including her medical history, social history, and later at the time of delivery, a blood test. If they are considered an acceptable donor according to the rules and restrictions of the AATB, then immediately after the delivery a technician will clamp the umbilical cord, take it to a clean room, remove its contents, and then place it into a collection bag. The umbilical cord blood is then processed at a lab. There, the cells are processed using a proprietary method. A sample is shipped to an independent CLIA lab for sterility testing for fungus, mold, or bacteria. After both lab reports come back as “clean” and pass the various regulatory requirements, the processed umbilical cord stem cells become available for distribution.
Are Stem Cells tested for HIV, Hepatitis and other infectious diseases?
Yes. Stem cells are tested for variety of diseases, including HIV, Hepatitis, and others. Each package comes with the tests performed. At the time of procedure Dr. Colgrove opens the package and shows the patient the sheet of all the passed tests.
How many cells are in each vial of Stem Cells?
It depends. For hair loss, we typically use 10 million cell Stem Cell vials. We have found that 10 million cells are sufficient to cause hair growth. All of the patient before and after photos are with the 10 million Stem Cell vials. However, there are also vials that contain 5 million cells should the treatment area desired be small.
What is different about Umbilical Cord Stem Cells compared to Stem Cells derived from fat?
In Vitro studies done by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences have shown that younger, more vibrant umbilical cord stem cells can duplicate every 28 hours for up to 90 generations or more, while 50+ year old bone marrow aspirate and adipose-derived stem cells duplicate much more slowly, at a rate of 3 to 5 days for only 11 to 13 generations. Also, older cells undergo senescence (aging) quicker than young, vibrant umbilical cord cells and older senescent cells produce less quantities and less effective growth factors.
How are Stem Cell Treatments different from PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) treatments?
PRP stands for Platelet Rich Plasma. It begins with centrifuging a patient’s blood so we can concentrate the growth factors and platelets naturally present. PRP however does not provide any stem cells because as we age our bodies contain less and less stem cells in our blood.
A normal PRP treatment does not include any stem cells. PRP involves concentrating only growth factors and platelets to be injected into the patient. Often, patients and sometimes doctors confuse PRP with concentrated stem cells but blood is not the optimal source to utilize stem cells. Originally stem cells would come from fat collected during liposuction. But that process was very labor intensive and not worth the effort especially when considering that stem cells are not as potent as the source patient aged. We now use the stem cells derived from the umbilical cord, and they make a much larger impact than PRP or stem cells previously taken from fat.
How long do the Stem Cells last in your body?
Stem cells typically 9 to 12 months.
Are the Umbilical Cord Stem Cells From Another (Allogeneic) Safe to be Injected Into Me?
Yes, allogeneic (taken from another person) stem cells are safe to inject into the body. During the processing of the umbilical cord, the red blood cell components that could potentially cause a negative reaction are filtered out. Additionally, the umbilical cord cells are immature and so they do NOT react in the same way a mature adult cell would.
“Mesenchymal stem cells produce huge quantities of bio-molecules, some of which are immunosuppressive; MSC’s put up a curtain of molecules around themselves that allows donor (allogeneic) MSC’s to be transplanted into a recipient, free from an immune response. (Immune privileged)”
Arnold Caplan, PhD. Case Western Reserve University. Experimental and Molecular Medicine (2013) 45
Mesenchymal stem cells: environmentally responsive therapeutics for regenerative medicine
Can the Patient Take NSAIDS?
No. It is ideal for the patient to stop taking NSAIDS for about 3 days prior to the injection and for 3 weeks after. A part of the stem cells’ function is a prostaglandin response which would be inhibited by the NSAIDS. Please note, NSAIDS will NOT destroy the injected cells, just potentially lessen the effects. It is also known that not taking NSAIDS is purely to optimize the final results.
Are There Growth Factors More Concentrated in PRP Than in Umbilical Cord Cells?
This answer depends on the volume of cells used. VEGF, FGF-2, and SCF may show up as initially more concentrated in PRP but, since there are no live cells, these Growth Factors will only function for their half-life, while the live nucleated cells in umbilical cord cells will continually produce Growth Factors for weeks and possibly even months following their injection.
What are the absolute contraindications for stem cell injections:
- Post organ transplant or on the transplant list
2. Immuno-compromised (as in those with HIV)
3. Those with active flu-like symptoms
4. Pregnant, or those that are trying to become pregnant
What are the relative contraindications:
- Active cancer or cancer within the last 5 years
2. Significant food and/or drug allergies (this can typically be overcome by dosing H1 and H2 antagonists along with a non-particulate corticosteroid)
3. Known sensitivity to glycerol (cryopreservant)
4. Children under 12 years old
Are there clinical studies showing the efficacy of Stem Cells for hair loss?
Yes. According to the study by Elmaadawi et al . titled “Stem cell therapy as a novel therapeutic intervention for resistant cases of alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia,” 40 patients with hair loss were treated with only one session of stem cells. Six months after the injections, there were significant improvement that were confirmed by immunostaining and digital dermoscopy. There were no side effects reported.
What is the difference between Stem Cells from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood?
There are studies comparing the Stem Cells from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood. According to Jin HJ et al., ” Comparative analysis of human mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood as sources of cell therapy,” the authors state that “Although adult bone marrow and adipose tissue are the main sources for clinical use, they are limited because harvesting requires invasive procedures and there are stringent donor age requirements. Mesenchymal stem cells derived from elderly patients may be clinically ineffective… Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is considered most suitable because it is free from ethical
complications, and easy to isolate via non-invasive methods.”
What preparation do I need for the day of the procedure?
Patients are advised to:
- Drink a lot of fluid one day prior to the procedure
- Have breakfast the morning of their procedure
- Avoid Aspirin, Naproxen, Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs 3 days prior to the procedure and 3 weeks after the procedure.
What are the restrictions after the procedure?
There are really not many restrictions. Most patients return to work or their routine that day. You can exercise and do your normal routine. It is advised to avoid Aspirin, Naproxen, Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs for 3 weeks following the procedure.
Can I combine Stem Cell therapy with other hair loss modalities?
Yes. You can use Propecia, Finasteride or Minoxidil while performing the Stem Cell treatment for hair loss.
How long do I have to wait before another session of Stem Cell for hair loss?
Dr. Colgrove typically waits 9 to 12 months to re-evlaute and perform another set of Stem Cell injections for hair loss if necessary.
Do Stem Cells Cause Cancer or Cause Cancer to Grow?
Currently there exist no large direct studies that can show stem cells do not cause cancer, but there are studies where stem cells have been utilized to treat cancer, and the conclusion from these studies is that since the stem cells work to suppress cancer cells, it is assumed that they will neither help proliferate cancer cells nor cause the formation of cancer cells in the first place.
Can stem cells be used for Alopecia Areata?
Yes. . According to the study by Elmaadawi et al . titled “Stem cell therapy as a novel therapeutic intervention for resistant cases of alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia,” 20 patients with Alopecia Areata were treated with Stem Cells with significant improvement.