Position Statement of AHRS-India
Position Statement on Cell based treatments (stem cells, hair multiplication, hair cloning, hair doubling).

The AHRS believes, that with existing evidence and at current stage of research stem cells, hair cloning and hair multiplication cannot be considered as acceptable treatments for any type of hair loss. Any physician wishing to practice such treatment should do so as an experimental treatment after obtaining proper ethical clearance and permission from appropriate governmental agencies as per standard guidelines for clinical trials. The association strongly disapproves of advertisements in this regard and cautions public not to be misled by misleading claims.

Understanding the science behind cell based therapies:

Hair transplantation is one of the methods of hair restoration which involves transfer of permanent hair follicles from the back and the sides to bald area. The most significant limitation of hair transplantation is the fixed amount of donor area that can be utilized in a particular individual.It has been the hope of hair restoration surgeons and patients alike, to have an endless supply of hair for restoring bald areas in affected individuals.

Converting hundreds of follicles from a single follicle was one such mechanism. This method was incorrectly addressed as hair cloning, involved converting a single follicle to hundreds of follicles. However this technique is not true cloning and is more accurately acknowledged as laboratory engineered cell growth or cell based therapy.

In the last decade, the advances in stem cell biology and tissue engineering techniques have raised the hope of possible cell based therapies which could overcome the donor area limitation.

The various hypotheses on how these stem cells will work have been proposed and these are:

Till date there is no published report which has demonstrated formation of new follicles in the bald skin in humans. Most of the clinical trials in humans have shown that injection of stem cells into the scalp led to some thickening of existing vellus hairs. This result is similar to that achieved with conventional treatment (topical minoxidil and oral finasteride). The exact mechanism which leads to this thickening is not known. As the duration of the benefits is also not known it is difficult to predict whether a single treatment is required or multiple treatments will be needed to maintain the benefits. Therefore, at this point in time the expense of these cell based therapies may not justify its temporary benefits.

Moreover the hype associated with cell based therapies is such that many clinics/centres have fraudulently started using preliminary data obtained from studies in mice as final results. This has led to patients actually believing that the cure for baldness has arrived, which is not true.

The researches in mice have demonstrated that new hair formation can be achieved but the same results have not been translated in humans. True hair multiplication in humans has proved to be far more complicated than previously thought.

Another aspect that needs looking into is the safety of such treatments. The cells that are implanted are cultured in the laboratory and the behaviour of these cells may not be predictable after implantation. The biggest worry is the possibility of tumor formation. Review of existing human trials however has not shown any such incident. For these treatments to be a part of mainstream hair restoration practice, they mandate approval of statutory bodies like the FDA.

As things stand today cell based therapies seem to be the next big thing in treating hair loss but true hair multiplication is far away from being used as routine hair loss treatments.

How can you sort out the undocumented claims of "miracle cures" for hair loss from the scientifically documented facts about hair restoration?

Ask the following questions: