Like so many other areas of regenerative medicine, we do not fully understand the mechanism behind PRP treatments for hair loss. Medical science has a general idea of the what the constituents of blood plasma do, but there is still a lot to be learned. Perhaps some of the answers are found in a UCLA research project from 2017.
The research has opened the door to treatments that could stimulate the activation of hair follicle stem cells to regrow lost hair. Based on the data, the UCLA team expects new hair loss drugs to be developed in the future. But maybe new drugs are not necessary. Perhaps what the researchers discovered explains the effectiveness of PRP therapy. If so, a better alternative would be to continue developing PRP therapy to make it better.
Utah-based Apex Biologix would rather see more PRP development over new drugs. PRP therapy seeks to help the body do what it normally does, but better. If that can be accomplished without drugs, then all the better.
A Different Kind of Stem Cell
To understand the importance of the UCLA research, it is important to understand that hair follicle stem cells are a different kind of stem cell. They are longer life stem cells known as quiescence cells for one reason in particular: they are normally inactive.
The cells remain dormant between periods of hair growth. In order for those cells to stimulate new hair, they have to be activated at the start of the next growth cycle. This is what the researchers were concentrating on during their study. They were trying to understand what causes the hair follicle stem cells to activate in hopes of figuring out a way to activate them more often in people suffering from hair loss.
Lactate and Hair Growth
Without going through all the details of the research, the results of the study all boil down to a metabolite known as lactate. Lactate is very beneficial to the regeneration process, which explains why the body tends to produce more of it immediately after physical exertion. People suffering from hair loss may also be suffering from lower lactate production. And even if they’re not, the UCLA researchers have discovered that introducing lactate to hair follicle stem cells helps to activate them.
For their research, they first blocked lactate production by genetically altering lab mice. As expected, the result was hair loss. Then they turned around and increased lactate production through another genetic alteration. The result was increased hair follicle stem cell activation and more frequent hair cycles. The lab mice grew more hair then they otherwise would have.
Implications for PRP Therapy
So, what does all of this have to do with PRP therapy as a hair loss treatment? The platelets and growth factors in PRP serum are known to encourage the body to naturally heal itself by sending out signals instructing the body to respond. Perhaps the mechanism behind PRP therapy accomplishes the same thing as lactate production.
Though no one knows for sure, it is quite possible that the growth factors in PRP serum activate hair follicle stem cells in the same way lactate does. This would have to be thoroughly researched in order to determine if that’s what’s really going on. But at least now we have a starting point for understanding the mechanism behind PRP therapy thanks to the UCLA research.
For sake of argument, let’s say that future research does prove that stem cell activation is the mechanism behind PRP therapy. That would indicate continuing to develop PRP therapy to make it better.