Restoring hair growth on the bald patches of patients' heads by injecting them with platelet-rich plasma is possible, Italian and Israeli scientists reported in the British Journal of Dermatology, May 2013 issue.

Coined "the vampire treatment", blood is taken from the patients and processed in a machine that removes platelet-rich plasma (PRP). The PRP is then injected back into the bald patches.

Dr Fabio Rinaldi and colleagues believe the PRP solution stimulates new stem cells under the skin, which help hair regrowth.

As background information, the authors explained that alopecia areata, also known as spot baldness, is a common auto-immune condition which causes inflammation-induced hair loss. Patchy baldness usually starts with rapid hair loss in some areas of the scalp, which can progress to total baldness and even loss of hair in other parts of the body. Alopecia areata can affect both females and males, including children and young adults.

Alopecia areata has very limited treatment possibilities. There are no curative or preventive treatments.

According to some previous studies, PRP may play a role in restoring hair growth.

Dr. Rinaldi and team set out to determine how safe and effective PRP is in the treatment of alopecia areata in a randomized, double-blinded, placebo and active-controlled, half-head, parallel group study.

The team recruited forty-five volunteers, all of them with alopecia areata (AA). They were randomly selected into one of the following groups:
  • The PRP group
  • The triamcinolone acetonide (TrA) group
  • The placebo group
In all three groups, their PRP, TrA or placebo was injected into just one half of their scalp, leaving the other half untreated. Each patient was administered treatment three times, with an interval of one month between each treatment.

The endpoints were hair regrowth, hair dystrophy, cell proliferation (as measured by Ki-67 evaluation), and burning/itching sensation.

The patients were monitored for 12 months.

The authors found that PRP treatment significantly increased hair regrowth and reduced hair dystrophy and burning/itching sensation compared to TrA or placebo. Ki-67 levels were also considerably higher in the PRP group.

None of the participants reported any side effects while they were receiving treatment.

The team concluded:

"This pilot study, which is the first to investigate the effects of PRP on AA, suggests that PRP may serve as a safe and effective treatment option in AA, and calls for more extensive controlled studies with this method."

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, quoted Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, who said "Alopecia is known to lead to overwhelming effects on the patient's quality of life and self-esteem. This could offer hope to thousands."

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania reported in Science Translational Medicine that bald men have an abnormal quantity of Prostaglandin D2 in their scalp, and believe it may be responsible for their hair loss.

Glaucoma drug, bimatoprost can make human hair regrow, according to a study published in The FASEB journal. Bimatoprost is already commercially available as a way to make eyelashes grow longer.

Valerie Randall, from the University of Bradford, England, said "We hope this study will lead to the development of a new therapy for balding which should improve the quality of life for many people with hair loss. Further research should increase our understanding of how hair follicles work and thereby allow new therapeutic approaches for many hair growth disorders."

Written by Christian Nordqvist