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Alopecia Hair Transplant v Dry Needle Treatment Study Terminated

A somewhat unorthodox trial into treatment options for Alopecia Areata, which leads to sudden, patchy hair loss, has been cancelled.

The trial had been trying to gather steam since 2011, when it was first announced by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.


A dermaroller, often used to administer dry needling therapy

Lack of willing participants

Researchers had hoped to show that irritating the scalp with hypodermic needles was just as effective a treatment for Alopecia Areata, which is an autoimmune disorder, as a hair transplant. Alarmingly, perhaps, they were seeking people who were prepared to have one of their bald spots treated with transplant surgery, and another pricked by a needle.

Unsurprisingly, not enough people signed up as participants and the trial has now been terminated.

Hair transplants are not commonly performed on people with Alopecia Areata as it is a condition that often comes and goes, and bald patches don’t always return in the same place. Hair transplants are more commonly associated with the genetic hair loss condition Male Pattern Baldness.

At Belgravia Alopecia Areata treatment can often produce significant results, when it involves bald patches on the scalp only, by using recommended formulations of high strength minoxidil. This is applied directly to the scalp and can be combined with hair-growth boosters. At the moment, however, the world could be on the cusp of a landmark period in terms of alopecia treatment, particularly for the more severe and currently untreatable conditions, with some very promising new drugs called JAK inhibitors currently being trialled as new treatment options.

Qi Xing Acupuncture Needle

A Qi Xing acupuncture needle

Extreme forms of Alopecia Areata

If approved and declared safe for general use on people with the condition, these will likely offer particular hope to people with extreme forms of Alopecia Areata, such as Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis, which leads to total hair loss on the whole head (both) and the head and whole body (AU only). Presently treatment for these two conditions has notably low success rates and, in addition, can be uncomfortable and inconvenient.

What would have been interesting had the New York trial taken place would have been to see how well the bald patches of people with Alopecia Areata responded to being irritated with hypodermic needles, a technique known as “dry needling”, both with and without the additional use of minoxidil.

This type of needle therapy is similar to microneedling – which has been investigated for its potential boosting benefits when used in combination with pharmaceutical hair loss treatment for male pattern baldness – and is also broadly similar to acupuncture.

Clearly, the doctors think that this approach has some merit and the abandoned trial may have been designed as a follow on to a 2016 study into treating alopecia areata with acupuncture. Researchers from the small scale Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine trial  found that acupuncture could regrow hair in cases of autoimmune hair loss, and that results were most encouraging when using a seven-star needle, known as the Qi Xing.

Circ - Minoxidil iconThe Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.

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