Having your blood drawn and then getting a mixture containing this plasma injected into your scalp multiple times per session does not sound like a particularly appealing experience. Despite this, Platelet rich plasma therapy, better known as PRP, is a hot topic in the world of hair loss
In a quest for new ways to treat thinning hair
, PRP - most commonly used in sports injury and beauty treatments - is being studied to see if there really are any hair growth benefits to these scalp injections. The simple premise of PRP is that blood taken from a patient is spun in a centrifuge to extract the most potent platelet-rich plasma. This solution is then injected back into various points along the top of the patient's scalp. This is then meant to aid tissue regeneration and healing as well as, according to some practitioners, hair loss.
Studies into PRP for hair loss
There have been three recent studies into PRP for hair loss
and whether it could be a potential treatment in its own right. Two of these investigated the effects of PRP on genetic hair loss
whilst one assessed it as a potential treatment for the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata
, which causes patchy hair loss and is often temporary.
The first clinical trial took place in Barcelona in 2015 at the University of Catalunya. This explored PRP as a treatment for male pattern baldness
and female pattern hair loss. Based on its findings
, which were released in April 2016, the resulting report stated that PRP therapy had demonstrated 'a positive effect on AGA and could be regarded as an adjuvant therapy'. This was the first time it was shown that PRP could be beneficial to male hair loss, however, as the trial concludes, it should be considered a secondary treatment rather than a primary one.
Primary hair loss treatments
for men include either or both of the only two MHRA licensed and FDA approved drugs for androgenetic alopecia, finasteride 1mg and minoxidil, whilst for women this refers to high strength minoxidil
only. Secondary adjunct therapies - suitable for both genders - are often referred to as hair growth supporting products
and can include handheld LLLT
devices such as the FDA-cleared LaserComb. They are generally used alongside the established medications, rather than on their own, and this is the category researchers felt was most appropriate for PRP.
The second clinical trial appeared to back these findings. This time the hair loss research, which focused solely on treating female pattern hair loss
, was carried out by an American team from Texas and Minnesota. The findings echoed those of the Barcelona trial and suggested that the only tangible benefits of PRP may be psychosomatic. The US conclusion states: 'Platelet-rich plasma failed to demonstrate any statistically significant improvement in HMI or hair count in women with congenital female pattern hair loss. The patient survey results suggest a therapeutic advantage of PRP as perceived by patients but not according to hair count or HMI.'
A third round of hair loss research into PRP
discovered that the treatment was effective in treating Alopecia Areata. However, whilst this is encouraging, this autoimmune disorder tends to clear up naturally of its own accord in the majority of cases so wider studies would be needed to confirm its benefits. Also, there are also more convenient and comfortable alopecia areata treatments
Activated PRP versus not-activated PRP
The latest PRP research was conducted by a team in Italy and published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences
. As with the three previous trials, this was also conducted on a small scale with just 36 participants though this seems to have produced slightly more encouraging results in relation to using PRP to treat androgenetic alopecia, though whether the trial featured women as well as men with pattern hair loss is currently unknown.
The official study title is: Evaluation of Not-Activated and Activated PRP in Hair Loss Treatment: Role of Growth Factor and Cytokine Concentrations Obtained by Different Collection Systems. What is meant by 'activated' and 'not-activated' PRP in this instance is that the 'activated' solution contained calcium-activated PRP, whilst the 'not-activated' PRP was the normal, basic version of the therapy.
Half the group of test subjects were given half-head treatment using a placebo on one side and autologous non-activated PRP (A-PRP) on the other side of their heads, which was produced by CPunT Preparation System (Biomed Device, Modena, Italy). The treatments were administered to each of the participants over 30-day intervals.
The remaining 18 participants were treated with a one-off set of scalp injections using the calcium-activated PRP (AA-PRP). This was produced from two different PRP collection devices (Regen Blood Cell Therapy
or Arthrex Angel System).
Of the results pertaining to the A-PRP group, the research findings state: '...analysis of patients, three months post-treatment, showed a clinical improvement in the number of hairs in the target area (36 ± 3 hairs) and in total hair density (65± 5 hair cm2), whereas negligible improvements in hair count (1.1± 1.4 hairs) and density (1.9 ± 10.2 hair cm2) were seen in the region of the scalp that received placebo. Microscopic evaluation conducted two weeks after treatment showed also an increase in epidermal thickness, Ki67+ keratinocytes, and in the number of follicles.'
Of the results pertaining to the AA-PRP group, the research findings state: '...six months after the treatments were administered, notable differences in clinical outcomes were obtained from the two PRP collection devices (+90 ± 6 hair cm2 versus -73 ± 30 hair cm2 hair densities, Regen versus Arthrex). Growth factor concentrations in AA-PRP prepared from the two collection devices did not differ significantly upon calcium activation.'