Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) involves blood components (platelets) to help stem hair loss. It is believed to lead to a regeneration of the follicles responsible for hair growth in some cases. However, How PRP procedures are used to treat hair loss is still a matter of debate.
Platelets and Hair Loss
It’s crucial to grasp what exactly it is that platelets do in the human body To understand the link between hair loss and platelets.
Platelets are one of the major blood components, white blood cells, red blood cells, and plasma. Platelets promote healing by being one of the body’s first responses to injuries like cuts and wounds. They seal up such damaged areas and stem the flow of excess blood from such injured body parts. In addition to this primary function, platelets also promote cell growth and enhance their regenerative powers.
Because of the latter two functions, scientists theorized that such benefits could be harnessed to combat the hair loss associated with conditions like alopecia, a state whereby there is progressive hair loss resulting from the body attacking the hair follicles.
PRP contains abnormally high levels of platelets, about five times that found in circulating human blood. Such high platelet levels are essential to stimulating the papilla cells of the scalp when injected during PRP procedures; This, in turn, leads to increased stimulation of these cells, leading to hair growth.
Preparing the PRP for Injection
Blood has to be drawn from the patient to prepare this solution. This blood is then placed in a centrifuge, which spins it rapidly to separate its many components. The centrifuging process ensures that the blood (plasma) liquid part rises to the top, leaving the platelets at the bottom. These platelets are what constitute the PRP to be injected during the procedure. To get a better platelet concentration, some medical facilities prefer to put the collected platelets through a second centrifuging process, ensuring that the platelet concentration is optimized.
After these preparation processes, the PRP can be injected into the scalp. For better results, it’s usually injected at several sites to ensure that it reaches as many hair follicles as possible.
There are no set standards for the duration between each session of PRP injections. Most medical practitioners recommend these treatments in one-month intervals. After that, maintenance sessions can be done every three to six months.
Is PRP Therapy Effective?
Multiple research teams have tried to investigate the efficacy of this treatment, especially for managing androgenetic alopecia (AGA). The results have been mixed.
AGA manifests itself as baldness at the front and top of the head in men. In women, this balding process begins with the center hair growing more expansive as it gradually thins on the crown of the head. This hormone-related hair thinning seems to affect both sexes equally.
Some studies suggest that PRP therapy produces maximal effects when combined with other medical regimes. For example, combining PRP therapy with the oral administration of finasteride or minoxidil has produced better results in enabling hair growth to combat baldness.
Such treatments only seem to work for AGA. There is no sufficient scientific data to suggest that this combination of therapies can work against other types of hair loss like stress-related hair loss (telogen effluvium) and alopecia areata.
In most studies involving the effectiveness of PRP therapy, it’s difficult to harmonize the results of such case studies due to the limitations and methods used. For example, one study may focus on PRP treatments administered in two-month intervals instead of one. In another study, the researchers may record data involving therapies administered in three-month intervals.
In addition to such differences, most test samples of the individuals used for these studies are not large enough, meaning that critical data may not have surfaced due to this limitation.
All these reasons account for the fact that no standard guidebook is available for the administration of PRP therapies. As such, results can vary.
While this novel procedure promises to eliminate hair loss for many people, it comes with certain drawbacks. In addition to the mild pain at the injection site, occasional headaches or swelling associated with PRP therapies are also costly.
One session of such therapy can go for as high as $1000.
While success has been demonstrated with many PRP therapies, more research is still needed to standardize them.