August 8, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Stem cells for baldness: any progress in 2019?

stem cells baldnessStem cells for baldness? Where does that stand? Can hair loss be reversed using stem cells?

I get asked these kinds of questions regularly here on The Niche that all converge on the issue of whether there might be a stem cell treatment for baldness soon.

For that reason every couple of years I do an update on it. As someone with less hair than I used to have, I’m also just genuinely curious about this kind of research more personally.

Sadly, I haven’t heard of any new groundbreaking findings in the news or had them pop up in the published literature. At present there are 10 clinical trials listed on Clinicaltrials.gov for a search for all baldness-related trials that also mention stem cells.

There were also 10 such trials listed there in 2017 so that doesn’t suggest much of any change on the stem cells for baldness front. That post that I linked to above that I did in 2017 covers the main ideas behind stem cells for baldness in some depth so I won’t repeat those here again, but suggest you head over to that post. One key concept is that you can grow new hairs from stem cells so in theory if you transplanted stem cells into the skin in a bald area (or activate or reprogrammed cells already there), a lot of new hair might grow.

Can stem cell clinics actually treat or cure baldness today using stem cells? Nope. They just want your money so don’t waste it on that. Some of the same clinics make other claims too.There’s no reason to think that stem cells also really work to increase the size or improve the function of one’s sex organs either, although some will keep on trying it seems.

Getting back to baldness, it still makes good sense to me in general that stem cell technology should be able to combat hair loss, whether everyday loss of hair or hair loss due to disease (e.g. alopecia) or injury such as one suffered in combat. I’m really not sure why there hasn’t been more progress in the last couple years. Maybe it’s going on behind the scenes?

Bona fide clinical trials take time to really prove something is safe and effective. There are hundreds of articles on stem cells and hair on Pubmed, not all of them of course relevant to human hair or baldness, but still it’s a very active area of research.

Of course, there are drug-based approaches to baldness like propecia and minoxidil, but they are expensive, can have side effects, don’t always work, and must be taken forever. I guess there is kind of a propecia vs. minoxidil debate still ongoing as well. There are also totally bogus things out there too for baldness including some that are really painful or stupid!

Here is my (non-medical) advice. Save your money for when real, proven stem cell therapies for baldness arrive that are safe and effective. Hopefully that’s not 20 years away.

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