Whilst the world of hair loss
research has been increasingly focusing on developments in the area of JAK inhibiton, another solution was also being quietly explored.
The use of stem cells harvested from a person's own body fat - known as adipose - then reintroduced into their scalp via injections, as a means to potentially treat androgenetic alopecia has been under development
for many years.
Whilst the organisations involved have not been as vocal in announcing the progress of their clinical trials as those, such as Aclaris Therapeutics
and Concert Pharmaceuticals
have in relation to JAK inhibitor treatments, this is still a hotbed of research activity.
White Adipose Tissue
The latest trial is being carried out by the Lebanese University in collaboration with Reviva Regenerative Medicine Center MEIH Hopsital and Reviva Pharmaceuticals. It will look into the effects of transplanting adipose-derived stromal vascular cells as a means to regrow hair in people with alopecia.
Using body fat to treat hair loss
Clinical trial registration
information lists the study title as 'Autologous Adipose-Derived Adult Stromal Vascular Cell Transplantation for Alopecia (A-ADSVC-CT-A)'. Its stated aim is to uncover 'alternative therapeutic solutions' for treating hair loss. Stating, 'Most common forms of hair loss (alopecia) are caused by aberrant hair follicle cycling and changes in hair follicle morphology. However, current treatments for alopecia do not specifically target these processes.'
The methods being explored in this latest clinical trial involve removing a 'small volume of fat' from each of the 20 volunteers participating. They will be divided into two equal, non-randomised groups.
The first group will undergo lipoaspiration in order to obtain the necessary adipose. This procedure - also known as liposuction or 'lipo' - involves having body fat suctioned out. The isolated Adipose-Derived Stromal Vascular Cells (ADSVCs) are then transplanted back into the Group I participants' scalps.
The remaining 10 test subjects - Group II - will also undergo the same lipo; their harvested adipose will then be isolated for stromal vascular cells and processed using culture in order to obtain the necessary ADSCs. These are then transplanted back into their scalps. According to the research information provided, ADSVCs have 'been considered as a promising therapy for skin ageing' and this is why it is believed they may also benefit hair loss. Continues below...
Participants will be men and women aged between 21 and 75 years old, with mild-to-moderate hairloss and no scalp 'defects' or immunodeficiency issues.
Researchers will investigate the improvement in volunteers' hair loss following stem cell transplants, carried out by injecting the ADSVs into the scalp. They will be monitored over a six-month period following the procedure initially, in order to ascertain changes to the hair density, diameter and to pull test
results. Further follow-ups will be carried out over a four year period after this.
Alopecia terminology confusion
One thing that is not made clear from the trial records, however, is the precise hair loss conditions
they are hoping to treat with this method. This is probably something which has been lost in translation as the information refers simply to 'alopecia' - the general over-arching medical term for 'hair loss'.
Whilst this does not designate a specific condition, it is often used as shorthand for the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata
and its various phenotypes. It is frequently misused in the media
, resulting in confusing advice given there are many different forms of hairloss and, for example, androgenetic alopecia - male pattern baldness
and female pattern hair loss
- and autoimmune alopecia are very different issues.
Based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria cited, it seems most likely that the Lebanon research is geared towards male and female pattern baldness. We have, however, reached out to the study's Principal Investigator, Nehman Makdissy, PhD, at the Lebanese University for clarification. No response was received by the time of publication but this article will be updated once the relevant information is received.
Whilst the idea of having fat removed from one part of the body - generally the hip area - then using it to regrow hair may well appeal to some people, it's not quite that simple. The amount of adipose taken is relatively small - certainly far less than the volumes drained during cosmetic liposuction procedures. Furthermore, the method has not yet been proven to actually treat hair loss nor improve hair regrowth so - as in the case of PRP
- having invasive scalp injections or cell transplants may not produce the results expected when a person undergoes these types of procedures.
In many cases, for men and women concerned about thinning hair now, there is not actually any need to wait for new developments. There are already clinically-proven hair loss treatments
authorised by both the
MHRA and the FDA to stabilise shedding, promote regrowth and - with long-term use - help in preventing baldness
. As genetic hairloss is a permanent condition which tends to worsen over time, it is often best to take action early. A consultation with a specialist can be a good place to start as, even if a new treatment does come along in a few years, being forearmed with the knowledge of how to deal with hair loss now can help you to get a head start.