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Four Hair Loss Treatments for 2014
by Kurt Doyle
In October, big headlines announced that scientists had successfully grown human hair in the laboratory. Some trumpeted it as the end of baldness or a miracle cure. But the truth is that hair “cloning” and gene therapy are far from being available on the market to combat baldness. The good news is that while you won’t be able to get a head full of lab-grown hair in 2014, there are other improved hair loss treatments that are available. Here are four examples:
1) Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatments
If you’ve heard of platelet-rich plasma treatments (or PRP), odds are it was in the context of sports. Professional athletes like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods are among the high-profile beneficiaries of PRP. Here’s how it works: a blood sample is drawn, spun in a centrifuge, and specially processed to produce platelet-rich plasma, and reinjected into the target area. PRP helps stimulate all kind of growth and repair action in the body, which is why it has already been used in orthopedics, dentistry, and plastic surgery for years.
PRP treatments have now moved into the hair restoration field. By injecting PRP back into the scalp, hair growth is stimulated. In an article on the Huffington Post, American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery-certified hair transplant surgeon Dr. Alan J. Bauman reported that he has used PRP for hair restoration clients since 2011 and found it highly effective, especially in place of steroid injections in cases of alopecia areata. Dr. Bauman claimed in the article that even in traditional hair loss cases, one PRP treatment often produces better results than minoxidil. While the number of doctors currently offering PRP treatments for hair loss is currently limited, growth in the field is expected in the coming year.
2) Minoxidil Compounded with Finasteride
While some studies have shown standard over-the-counter minoxidil to be effective in only 38% of cases, when compounded with other drugs it has proven much more successful. While off-label minoxidil compounds have the same key active ingredient as standard minoxidil, its more powerful mixture increases the potency of the drug. The compounded minoxidil also has fewer side effects; it decreases irritation and is less greasy. Off-label minoxidil compounds are currently available via prescription.
3) Low-Level Laser Therapy
Low-level laser therapy (or LLLT), like PRP treatment, is used in a variety of medical disciplines. In hair restoration, it is used to rejuvenate dead or dying follicles and stimulate new hair growth. The FDA has approved a myriad of laser devices, including Sunetics' Clinical G-type Lasers and Laser Brush, HairMax's LaserComb, Apira Science's iGrow, Theradome's LH80 PRO and Midwest RF's MEP-90. With plenty of clinical evidence of its effectiveness, LLLT is becoming much more widely available. While early laser hair restoration therapy was limited to in-office laser “hood” treatments or at-home use of laser “combs” or “brushes,” current options have expanded to include wearable helmet-style and less-obvious hat-shaped laser devices.
4) Machine-Assisted Follicular Unit Extraction Transplants
Follicular unit extraction (FUE) transplants utilize individually-harvested follicles as opposed to the strip-mining of linear harvesting. This makes it less invasive and eliminates the trademark scar of linear harvesting. FUE is becoming more widespread as techniques incorporating robotics and semi-automatic devices make it an easier process for transplant surgeons. The first robotic hair transplant harvesting system - ARTAS - led to further development in the field, including NeoGraft FUE, a handheld surgical device that allows for increased precision and less trauma. FUE transplants have shorter recovery time, less discomfort, and fewer post-operative restrictions than strip-harvest hair transplants.