Hair loss can be a source of negative body image issues and can dramatically alter our perception of a person. Many treatments claim to reverse hair loss, the most recent being platelet-rich plasma.
The most common cause of hair loss in both males and females is caused by androgenetic (or androgenic) alopecia. This genetic disease is more commonly known as male or female pattern baldness. In men, this is characterized by a receding hairline, usually at the crown and front of the scalp. In contrast, women’s hair tends to become thinner over the entire scalp.
Treatment options for hair loss
Age is not a barrier to hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia. In fact, it is estimated that over half of the male population aged 30-50 years suffer this disease. Many treatment options are available to combat hair loss caused by androgenetic alopecia. These range from clinical treatments, such as topical or oral medicines, and low-level laser light therapy, to more invasive surgical hair transplant procedures. More recently, platelet-rich plasma treatments have become available.
What is platelet-rich plasma?
Treatment with platelet-rich plasma involves taking a sample of the patient’s own blood and removing the red blood cells. The remaining plasma contains five to eight times more growth factors than whole blood. Since concentrating on these growth factors is believed to help accelerate healing,platelet-rich plasma has been used in various medical fields including ophthalmology, and facial and reconstructive surgery. Results have been promising, and this treatment has the added benefits of being a low-invasive treatment that can be performed in the clinic.
Platelet-rich plasma as a hair-loss treatment option
These promising results prompted a team in the USA to assess the ability of platelet-rich plasma to treat androgenetic alopecia. The team reviewed 24 relevant studies in a total of 471 patients(113 women and 358 men) with a mean age of 29.6-43 years. Most studies excluded patients who had used topical or oral hair loss medications 60 days to 12 months prior to the study start date;or had a history of bleeding disorders, keloids (a type of raised scar), immunosuppression, or systemic disease.
How is platelet-rich plasma administered?
The results, published recently in Facial Plastic Surgery, revealed that injection was the most popular way to administer platelet-rich plasma. Only two studies applied it as a topical spray. Over half of the studies used activated platelet-rich plasma. Although platelet-rich plasma was commonly administered to the front, side and back of the scalp, the site of administration varied between the studies. The administration regimen was also variable, with most studies providing three to six treatments of varying doses at one-month intervals.
Platelet-rich plasma is a promising hair loss treatment option
Overall, platelet-rich plasma appears to be a promising treatment option for androgenetic alopecia. Of the 24 studies, 21reported positive outcomes following platelet-rich plasma treatment. Of note, patients received only one or two treatments in the remaining three studies, as opposed to the three to six treatments provided in the other studies. Despite this, the patients in these three studies were reportedly satisfied with their treatment.
Platelet-rich plasma treatment also seems to be safe and well tolerated. Few studies reported minor complications, the most common being temporary pain during injection, and transient swelling or redness at the injection site.
Unfortunately, the team found many inconsistencies between the 24 studies, which made it difficult for them to draw conclusions regarding the optimal preparation, dose, frequency, and duration of platelet-rich plasma treatment. The team was also unable to identify whether the effects of platelet-rich plasma treatment are long-lasting, or whether continual treatment is required to maintain optimal results. Differences in the patient cohorts also prevented the team from gaining gender-specific insights.
However, given the promising results, the team recommend that further research should be undertaken to resolve these questions and to determine the mechanisms underlying platelet-rich plasma treatment of hair loss.
Written by Natasha Tetlow, PhD
Reference: Chen JX, et al. Platelet-rich plasma for the treatment of androgenic alopecia: a systematic review.Facial Plast Surg. 2018. Available at doi:10.55/s-0038-1660845.