One of the knocks against platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is the lack of evidence in support of its safety and efficacy. That evidence is starting to grow, thanks to researchers taking an interest in regenerative medicine. Supportive evidence happens to be growing rather quickly in one key area: androgenetic alopecia.
Androgenetic alopecia is just a fancy name for male pattern baldness. It is a condition that is not limited just to men, despite its informal name. Men and women with the condition experience hair loss due to shrunken hair follicles that are less conducive to producing new hair.
What the Studies Show
PRP contains elevated levels of platelets along with natural growth factors, all concentrated in blood plasma. It is derived by drawing blood and then spinning it in a specialized centrifuge. The resulting material has a much higher concentration of platelets than unprocessed blood.
The question is, can PRP be used effectively to treat alopecia? According to at least three studies, it can. The first study is one recently published by the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery journal. The study was actually a review of data produced from 11 other studies involving 262 patients being treated for alopecia. Data shows that participants demonstrated reduced hair loss along with increased hair density and new hair with a higher diameter.
A second study published by Dermatologic Surgery is similar to the first in that it reviewed 19 previous studies. Those studies utilized a total of 460 participants. The results from each of the 19 studies showed PRP therapy to be effective for treating alopecia.
Finally, a third review of clinical studies published by the International Journal of Women’s Dermatology concluded that PRP is a promising treatment for alopecia in women.
How the Treatment is Applied
One thing all three studies concluded is that there is a lack of standardization among practitioners. As such, results may vary among patients. Individual results are influenced as much by clinician procedure as a patient’s response to the treatment itself.
As a general rule, a typical PRP procedure begins with a blood draw. The doctor takes just enough blood to cover the area he/she intends to treat. That blood is spun in the centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors. It can then be applied to the scalp in one of two ways.
The Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), a Utah organization that trains doctors how to perform PRP procedures, explains that the first way to apply PRP material is through direct injections into the scalp. The doctor chooses injection sites based on where hair loss is most prevalent.
If direct injections aren’t appropriate, the ARMI says a doctor can use a micro needling process. Micro needling utilizes a number of tiny needles capable of covering a fairly wide area in a single pass. This may be the process chosen when a patient demonstrates hair loss across a large portion of the scale.
The Healing Mechanism
As for how the treatment works, the evidence suggests that PRP’s growth factors stimulate the body to deal with those shrinking follicles that no longer want to produce hair. The growth factors signal a healing process that reopens the follicles and encourages new hair growth.
PRP therapy is not the definitive solution for every case of androgenetic alopecia, but evidence is mounting to suggest that it is a good alternative for many patients – especially those who have tried other treatments without success The more we learn about PRP therapy, the better we will understand why it works for some people dealing with hair loss.