Stem cells for hair loss


  • Living
  • Sunday, 11 Sep 2016

Stem cells are shown through a microscope in a research lab at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010. Congress will intervene if a U.S. court rules that federal funding for research using human embryonic stem cells is illegal, Senator Tom Harkin said at a hearing today. Researchers say embryonic stem cells can grow into any kind of tissue and might be harnessed to develop treatments for ailments led by cancer and other diseases. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg

I've been blessed with a full head of hair. That can’t be said of my bff (best friend forever) Herman or my ex-housemate Terence though.

They both shed hair at such an incredible rate that I’d find hair on the sofa and living room floor. And guess what, both of these fellows are only in their late 20s.

It can’t be denied that more and more people are facing hair loss issues at a younger age.

The reason? Stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of adequate rest, environmental pollution and improper hair care, added to a genetic predisposition for hair loss, affects one’s scalp and hair follicle health.

Many of those seeking treatment for their “affliction” many come armed with some basic knowledge of hair loss treatments curated from the Web, thanks to Google.

They want solutions to their hair loss problems, and quick ones too. This is perfectly understandable as a full head of gorgeous hair is associated with good looks.

Yes, my gal pals Siti, Melanie and Nanthini think Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame is drop dead handsome with his shiny bald look. But for the most part, Malaysians and folks worldwide prefer a head full of hair.

Now, a new hair loss treatment using stem cell treatment may offer some hope.

Stem cells are found in all tissues, including the scalp.

Simply put, they are cells that are able to replicate themselves into more stem cells or differentiate into a different type of cell. The main function of stem cells is to replace or regenerate cells that are damaged or dead.

Stem cell treatment is a very new field that may help to reduce and improve hair loss, with visible results seen as soon as the first month onwards. This is achieved without any surgery or hair transplant.

Stem cells are able to regenerate hair follicles that have been damaged due to ageing, stress, environmental factors, drugs and hormonal changes. They promote hair growth, improve thickness of hair strands and reverse hair loss.

Any man or woman who suffers from hair loss or hair-thinning might be a good candidate, provided there are some live hair follicles left. Those who are completely bald may be more suited for other procedures.

To decide whether you’re suitable for the procedure, aesthetic doctors will have a chat with you to collect detailed information about your hair issues, such as when it first started, severity, any treatments you’ve had, family history, and drug and allergy history.

Next, the doctor will conduct a thorough examination of your scalp, including using a hair microscope to check your hair follicles.

The doctor will then gently harvest skin with healthy hair follicles from a 2mm hair-bearing area from the scalp. As it is a very tiny area, there is hardly any bleeding or discomfort. Anaesthesia in the form of a numbing injection is also used so that you will not suffer any discomfort.

The hair follicles are placed into a high-tech machine to filter and harvest concentrated stem cells. This machine slices the 2mm piece of scalp skin into multiple, very fine pieces of micrografts.

Sterile saline solution is added. The sample is centrifuged to get the stem cell components, which the doctor draws out using a syringe.

The processed stem cells are then injected into balding areas with the finest of needles to minimise discomfort.

Multiple injections are necessary to cover areas with hair loss. Ice packs or numbing cream prior to injection are used to reduce discomfort. Usually, the entire procedure takes less than an hour.

After the first month, you may start to see some improvement on the thickness and density of your existing hair. There might be visible growth of new hair follicles even within the first month itself.

More sessions can be performed if you desire to have even better results.

There are usually minimal side effects as the stem cells used are from your own body, with zero compatibility issues.

There is usually no major pain, swelling, bleeding, scarring or other problems.

Painkillers are usually unnecessary.

As there are injections involved, do not go swimming for three days after the procedure to prevent infection from dirty water.

Showering is fine.

Also try to avoid touching the area unnecessarily for the first few days. You may shampoo as usual after that. And you may exercise or work as usual by the next day.

As with most aesthetic procedures, patients are advised to go for a follow-up approximately 14 days after the first session.

Your doctor will check on your progress and ensure everything is going well.

Prices vary depending on the number of grafts used, with RM8,000 being the usual price for one graft unit. You may use more graft units to increase the concentration of stem cells and obtain even better results if you wish to.

Do note that stem cells for hair loss is a very new technique, and more studies are needed to fully understand its efficacy, long-term results and any long-term safety issues.


This is the final Aesthetically Yours column. Dr Chen Tai Ho would like to bid adieu to his readers and wishes them all the best for the future. He will be thinking of them while he chills by the pool sipping espresso latte when he’s not attending to his patients. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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