Platelet-Rich Plasma: A New Miracle Cure for Hair Loss?

Another innovative hair loss therapy called Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections entered the market several years ago.  Let’s try to understand whether it can really help hair loss sufferers or it is another way to make your pocketbook lighter.

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma and how does it work?

prp_process

It is obvious that Platelet-Rich Plasma is the kind of plasma that contains a high content of platelets. Platelets are the blood cells responsible for blood coagulation in case of tissue damage.  Several decades ago it was discovered that when implementing this function, platelets release specific proteins called growth factors (like PDGF or VEGF).  These growth factors emit special signals that are perceived by the receptors located in the damaged cells. The latter, in their turn, get the signals and start stimulating the division of cells. Therefore, the increased concentration of platelets in blood leads to the increased intensity of their influence exerted on the tissue regeneration.

It is reasonable to expect medical professionals would find a way to make use of platelets.  It was assumed that the plasma rich in platelets could potentially improve tissue healing because of its growth factors.  To get such plasma, the doctor collects about 20-100 mg of  whole blood from a patient and places it in a centrifuge which spins it at a high speed to separate the platelets from other blood cells.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) is used in orthopaedic patients to treat and relieve certain musculoskeletal conditions like lateral elbow epicondylitis as well as for the treatment of wounds and open sores. Such plasma is called autologous because it is derived from a patient’s blood, and then injected to the same patient and therefore it has no potential for immune response1 and causes no side effects.  As it is rather a novel method of treatment, the experts believe  more studies are needed to standardize the PRP formulations, WBC content, blood volume requirements and the use of additives like thrombin.2

Can PRP help with hair loss?

Since 2004 PRP has been used in hair transplantation surgeries in order to improve the healing of the transplant and encourage tissue regeneration.  Between the years 2007 and 2009 the Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections was declared  the most innovative non-surgical treatment for hair loss and it hit the market and made a lot of noise in the media.  Up until today, there are clinics that offer this procedure claiming it can stop hair loss and even induce new hair growth by promoting new blood supply and nutrition to the hair follicles.  The procedure is pretty simple:

  • The blood is collected from the patient and then it is placed into a centrifuge to isolate the platelets.
  • Prior to the injection of PRP, the scalp areas where the injection is going to be administered are stimulated by means of a tiny roller with spikes.  The idea is that such ‘massage’ sends a message to the follicles to begin the process of healing.
  • Once the ‘massage’ is completed, PRP is injected over the area where the patient has hair loss to stimulate the hair follicles.

Clinical studies continue to be published showing the effectiveness and safety of this method when used for the treatment of various types of alopecia (like Androgenetic Alopecia3 or Alopecia Areata4).  But in spite of the science that is behind the PRP injections, there is yet to be a standard and unified protocol developed concerning the production and administration of PRP  and this raises certain concerns.  The treatment regimen in some clinics prescribes PRP injections to be done every 6 months.  In other clinics they advise the injections should be only once a year.  The cost of one injection varies from $800 to $1500.  All those who offer this procedure always state the effectiveness of the therapy is not guaranteed because it does not work for all patients.  Frankly speaking, it seems they themselves are not quite sure why it works for some and not for others.

The Internet is filled with the testimonials of hair loss sufferers varying from ‘great-results’ to ‘no-result-at-all’.  The latter seems to prevail.  It seems to appear the trend for PRP injections is fading away which is another point to consider – if the therapy is so great and works wonders, then why are there fewer and fewer  ‘great-results’ stories to be found on various hair loss forums?  Having read words praising this therapy and its perspectives,  it seems at odds that there are few clinical studies that are able prove the effectiveness of PRP.

The bottom line
platlet_rich_plasma

Hair loss treatment is, to a great extent, a market-driven area of medicine.  The efficiency of  one treatment method or another can be exaggerated.  PRPseems to be quite a perspective but still experimental and mostly effective in theory.  Scientists still have a  long way to go in both understanding the mechanism of the action of PRP in connection with hair loss and proving that injections of platelet rich plasma can provide any real benefit in the treatment of hair loss.


 

References:

  1. Clinical use of platelet-rich plasma in orthopaedics (By Barbara D. Boyan, PhD; Zvi Schwartz, DMD, PhD; Thomas E. Patterson, PhD; and George Muschler, MD) http://www.aaos.org/news/bulletin/sep07/research2.asp
  2. Is The Jury Still Out on PRP? (Jennie McKee), http://www.aaos.org/news/aaosnow/jan14/research5.asp
  3. The Effect of Autologous Activated Platelet Rich Plasma (AA-PRP) Injection on Pattern Hair Loss: Clinical and Histomorphometric Evaluation (V. Cervelli, S. Garcovich, […], and P. Gentile; Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 760709.), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032742/
  4. A randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled, half-head study to evaluate the effects of platelet-rich plasma on alopecia areata. (Trink A, Sorbellini E, Bezzola P, Rodella L, Rezzani R, Ramot Y, Rinaldi F; Br J Dermatol.2013 Sep;169(3):690-4.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23607773
  5. Autologous platelet-rich plasma: a potential therapeutic tool for promoting hair growth. (Li ZJ, Choi HI, Choi DK, Sohn KC, Im M, Seo YJ, Lee YH, Lee JH, Lee Y; Dermatol Surg.2012 Jul;38(7 Pt 1):1040-6.)http://geosmatic.com/downloads/Referances/PRP/A-PRP%20Study%20Alopecia.pdf