Although hair thinning and loss do not cause any medical issues, they can inflict a devastating blow on a person’s self-esteem and confidence; this condition can also have negative consequences on careers and social lives. Younger men and women in particular may suffer severely from the psychological consequences of hair loss. In the past, there were no really effective treatments for hair thinning, but today PRP hair restoration (platelet-rich plasma) can stop the hair thinning process and induce the re-growth of totally natural hair.
What Is the PRP hair restoration Treatment Like?
PRP hair restoration is a minimally-invasive, quick, and easy procedure. A blood sample is taken from the patient and used to prepare the PRP in an in-office procedure that only takes around fifteen minutes. Then, the PRP is injected into multiple areas in the patient’s scalp using a tiny needle. The entire procedure generally takes only around an hour. There is no recovery period or downtime; the patient can simply return to normal activities. The PRP stimulates the hair follicles to naturally heal and rejuvenate, stopping the hair loss process and stimulating hair regrowth. A typical course of treatment includes three injection procedures at monthly intervals. Visible results usually become apparent shortly after the third treatment and continue to improve for months after that. In general, a yearly maintenance PRP hair restoration treatment is necessary to maintain the results.
Platelets are continuously produced by the bone marrow and have a lifespan of around nine days after which they are destroyed in the liver; the spleen contains an emergency supply of platelets that can be released after a major trauma. Platelets are not cells since they lack a nucleus and other cellular structures and are basically just bags bounded by a cell membrane that contain a cocktail of various proteins. They normally circulate throughout the blood in an inactive form. Under a microscope they look kind of like a disk with an indent on each side when inactive. When some kind of injury occurs, they are activated and change shape, forming many tentacle-like projections on their surfaces as they perform their primary function, which is to stop bleeding. They aggregate at holes in blood vessels and stick together while releasing their contents, which include clotting factors, growth factors, and cytokines. The clotting factors and the clump of activated platelets form a clot to plug the leak.
The cytokines released by the activated platelets attract more platelets to help clot the blood, and also attract components of the immune system, such as white blood cells, to help control any pathogens that may have entered the body through the wound. In addition, the cytokines attract stem cells to the site of the injury to assist in healing and regeneration of the tissues. Platelets also release growth factors such as platelet-derived growth factor, transforming growth factor beta, fibroblast growth factor, insulin-like growth factor 1, platelet-derived epithelial growth factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor that triggers healing of the injured tissues.
Traditionally, platelets were viewed as just passive containers for chemicals, but recent research has shown they actively participate in the healing of tissues and in modulating the immune system and inflammatory reactions. They physically interact with white blood cells and also release chemicals that activate various types of white blood cells, such as B and T lymphocytes. They have also been observed to be actively crawling over and through tissues to assist in healing, and they can capture bacteria and present them to white blood cells for destruction. Essentially, they are a major multi-functional tool used by the body to heal damaged tissues. This is the basics of PRP hair restoration.
Blood is a complex substance that consists of plasma, the liquid part; many proteins, electrolytes, and other compounds; red blood cells; white blood cells; and platelets. In a healthy adult, there are around 150 to 450 billion platelets per liter of blood. PRP is a blood product from which the red and white blood cells have been removed and platelets have been concentrated in a small volume of plasma. The preparation procedure is fairly straightforward. A blood sample is centrifuged. Centrifugation spins the sample around rapidly and centrifugal force separates the components of the sample by size, namely the large red and white blood cells end up on the bottom of the tube while the platelets form a layer further up in the tube with clear plasma above it. Different practices use slightly different procedures to prepare PRP, but usually two rounds of centrifugation are applied to remove as many red and white blood cells as possible from the concentrated platelets.
PRP has been used for decades in surgery and dentistry to speed healing of acute injuries. The PRP sample is artificially activated and then applied to the surgical site before closure of the incision. Surgeons and dentists observed its application sped healing and reduced the formation of abnormal healing structures like scar tissue. However, many of the conditions that plague humans are not acute injuries but are instead chronic injuries due to repetitive motions that result in wear and tear, such as tendonitis. These types of chronic injuries don’t activate platelets and thus do not benefit from the healing cascade that they trigger. Doctors discovered that if they applied activated PRP to chronic injuries, they were able to trigger a natural healing process. More recently, doctors have tried using PRP to treat conditions thought to be due to natural aging; not really injuries, but tissue damage induced over time and by the aging process, and found that yes, PRP hair restoration is an effective treatment option.
How Hair Growth Works
Each hair grows out of a hair follicle. The shaft of the hair itself consists of a protein called keratin and is considered to be dead tissue; the only part of the hair that is alive is the hair bulb, a round, whitish structure lodged firmly inside a hair follicle. The hair follicle is a complicated structure that acts to continuously add to the length of hair at the root and push it upwards, blood vessels to supply nutrients to the cells in the hair follicle, glands to produce sebum that coats the hair, and a muscle that can be used to make the hair stand up in response to nerve stimulation.
Normally, each hair follicle spends most of its time actively growing its hair. Hairs on the scalp can grow around half an inch per month on average and the follicle actively grows its hair for years, three to five years on average but as long as seven years in some people. The natural length of the growth period determines how long a fully mature hair can become; people with naturally short growth periods may never be able to produce hair longer than around 20 inches, while others can produce hair as long as three or four feet. Eventually, the hair follicle stops actively growing its hair and the hair is shed, hair bulb and all, and the hair follicle enters a resting phase. In a healthy person, the resting phase lasts around three months before the follicle starts producing another hair. Since the various hair follicles are on different schedules, only around eighty hairs are shed per day, leaving thick hair growth behind.
Although there are many different types of hair loss and hair thinning conditions, they all involve some type of abnormality or interruption of the hair growth process. By far the most common cause of hair thinning is a genetic condition called androgenic alopecia. In this condition, the hair follicles react abnormally to male hormones by stopping hair growth. Over time, hair follicles on the scalp spend more time resting and less time growing hair, and the length of the hair growth period gradually decreases. Eventually, hair follicles start to become completely dormant and no longer produce mature hairs at all. As increasing numbers of the hair follicles on the scalp stop growing hair, visible hair thinning followed by a complete lack of hair on some parts or all of the scalp occurs.
In men, this condition can begin as early as their late teens and affects around 50 percent of men in their 50s and 80 percent of men in their 80s. In men, it manifests as the typical “male pattern baldness” where the hairline in front recedes, leaving a thin rim of hair around the base and back of the head. In women, this condition usually only manifests after menopause, but it does affect around 40 percent of women. Women don’t develop the typical balding pattern seen in men and instead experience global hair thinning all over their entire head.
PRP Hair Restoration
A number of scientific studies have shown that injections of PRP into the scalp can stop the process of hair loss associated with androgenic alopecia and then induce the treated hair follicles to resume a more normal hair growth cycle. Although the exact mechanism has not been fully characterized, the activated platelets seem to simply induce a healing and rejuvenation process in the hair follicles, where the growth factors stimulate the cells that produce the hair and it is possible the cytokines found in PRP attract stem cells to the hair follicles, where they differentiate into brand new hair follicle cells.
In addition to treating androgenic alopecia, PRP hair restoration has also been shown to be able to restore hair in people with alopecia areata, a hair loss condition characterized by the loss of hair from large round areas on the head. The cause of this condition seems to be autoimmune in origin and it is possible PRP is acting to modulate the local immune response in addition to stimulating hair regrowth. Although PRP hair restoration has not been formally studied for any of the many other types of hair loss, it is definitely possible that it can restore hair across a wide range of hair loss conditions. Since it has no known side effects, it is definitely worth a try.
If you or a loved one is troubled by your thinning hair, consider us here at Weight and Life MD to learn more about PRP hair restoration. We are conveniently located in Hamilton, NJ. Contact us today to schedule your PRP hair restoration consultation!