The Third Way - Scientific Breakthrough for Hair Loss Treatment

Scientists from Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital in South Korea have developed a new topical solution that leads to the regrowth of hair for men with male pattern baldness.

The Background

The most common cause of hair loss in men is genetics through a condition called androgenetic alopecia, which is commonly referred to as male pattern baldness.

Male pattern baldness is caused by hormone changes as we get older. Currently, there are only two medically approved treatments available. Both work differently to combat hair loss.

Finasteride, an oral tablet, serves as a hormone blocker which prevents DHT from attaching to, and shrinking hair follicles. Meanwhile, Minoxidil, a topical spray, serves as a peripheral vasodilator, widening blood vessels so that greater blood flow (oxygen and nutrients) can reach hair follicles.

There may soon be a third treatment on its way after a new study has shown promising results in combating hair loss. The research revealed that a topical solution that included stem cells from fat tissue stimulated statistically significant hair regrowth, even where hair had been absent for years.

The team of researchers was led by Professor Sang Yeoup Lee at the Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, in South Korea.

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The Science

The scientists from South Korea believe the answer to hair loss prevention lies with adipose tissue-derived stem cells (ADSCs). ADSCs are essentially stem cells taken, or derived, from fat tissue.

Stem cells are a special type of human cell that can develop into many different cell types, ranging from muscle cells to brain cells. This means stem cells have an important role in regenerative medicine.

There are many different types of stem cell that develop into specific cell types. This offers the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including macular degeneration, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

ADSCs are a special type of mesenchymal stem cell. The scientists believe that ADSCs may prevent hair loss by secreting several growth hormones that facilitate cell development and proliferation.

The Study

Whilst we have previously been aware that ADSCs may have hair growth properties, the researchers in South Korea were the first to conduct a randomised, placebo-controlled trial in humans.

They created a study of mid-aged people with male pattern-baldness to discover whether the ADSC-CE (adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract) topical solution worked to prevent hair loss.

The scientists studied 38 patients (29 men and 9 women), of which half were given the ADSC-CE solution (intervention group) and the other half a placebo solution (controlled group) that had no growth hormones. Each patient applied the solution or placebo to their head with their fingers twice daily.

After completing the 16-week study, the intervention group had a significant increase in both hair count and follicle diameter. Mean hair density and thickness increased by 28.1% and 14.2% by 16 weeks, which were 3.95 and 2.25 times those in the control group.

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The Conclusion

The senior author of the research, Young Jin Tak, noted, “At the end of 16 weeks, the group that received the ADSC-CEs had a significant increase in both hair count and follicle diameter.”

The write-up of study contained the similarly optimistic significance statement, “The application of adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract topical solution has the potential as an alternative therapeutic strategy for hair regrowth in patients with androgenetic alopecia by increasing both hair density and thickness while maintaining adequate treatment safety.”

Looking forward, the researchers want to build on the promising results results of this small study. They are aiming to conduct similar studies with large and diverse populations in order to confirm the beneficial effects of ADSC-CE on hair growth.

Whilst there remains a considerable amount of research to be undertaken, including to determine the efficacy and safety of the solution, for the millions of men who suffer from male-pattern baldness, this small clinical trial offers hope of a third, clinically proven treatment, for hair regrowth.

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Written by Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.