Platelet-Rich-Plasma for Hair and Skin Rejuvenation


Platelet-Rich-Plasma (PRP) is becoming a more common term outside of the medical field as it has gained traction through the social-media and celebrity endorsement of procedures such as the “Vampire Facial.” However, the dermatologic benefits of PRP are broad. Various studies examining PRP’s applications have produced robust results. This post will highlight the basics of PRP procedures, specifically pertaining to facial acne scar repair and hair growth treatments.

What is Platelet-Rich-Plasma?

The blood is made up of several important components, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets have interesting biological features that are crucial to these dermatologic treatments as they are involved in the processes of blood clotting and wound healing. They contain α-granules, which secrete various growth factors (such as vitamins and hormones) and proteins involved in cell signaling, migration, and tissue development – all of which can help with tissue rejuvenation.
All of these secreted components interact with the local environment to promote processes such as:

  • cellular differentiation (one cell type becoming a different type of cell)
  • proliferation (rapid increase in cell numbers)
  • and regeneration (the process of cells renewing themselves) (1,2)

In medical applications, the plasma fraction used in the procedures contains a 3-7 fold higher concentration of platelets relative to the blood (3). Processing prior to use in aesthetic procedures ensures the serum does not prematurely secrete all the beneficial compounds or clot. This will be described in the following sections.
PRP is considered safe, with minimal side effects and contraindications (4). As such, it has a niche in a wide range of dermatologic procedures because it has multifactorial benefits and anti-inflammatory effects (5). For example, by activating specific cell signaling pathways, PRP can promote hair growth and follicle survival (6). Additionally, the anti-inflammatory effects of PRP help reduce inflammation where it is injected when used to treat conditions such as hair loss due to alopecia or when used in aesthetic procedures to rejuvenate the face (7,8).

Uses in Skin Rejuvenation

Acne is an often chronic condition that affects around 90% of people. As a result, scarring occurs in approximately 95% of people experiencing acne. It can be painful and difficult to deal with, and may lead to the development of low self-esteem and depression in many people (9,10). Common treatment used for acne and scarring include retinoids, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser resurfacing – all of these treatments are able to induce collagen formation and remodeling to improve the appearance of scars (11–13).

Although it is a new option in the treatment of acne scars, PRP may be effective in improving their appearance. It has been found to increase the density of collagen fibers through the activation of fibroblasts, which are cells that create the components that make up the structural framework of tissues. The activity of these fibroblasts can help smooth out pitted acne scarring and ultimately rejuvenate the skin’s appearance (14,15).

The procedure itself is relatively uncomplicated – after an initial assessment of the patient’s face, the production of PRP begins with collecting between 10-60 mL of blood from the arm on the day of the treatment. Anti-coagulants are added to the blood to prevent it from prematurely clotting or secreting the α-granules before it is ready to be used. The blood sample is then processed using centrifugation – this is a machine that spins the blood at a high velocity and is able to separate the cells of the blood into distinct layers based on their varying weights (3). The PRP layer can be drawn out with a syringe when it is ready for use.

For people with healthy, normal skin, the PRP treatment for the face consists of an initial cleansing of the face, followed by application of a numbing cream. This is used to prepare the skin for the microneedling pen – a device that is rolled over the entire face to create micro-injuries that act somewhat like “channels” for the PRP serum so that it can penetrate the skin more effectively. These micro-injuries also induce collagen formation and restructuring. Once microneedling is completed, the PRP is applied to the skin as a serum and allowed to absorb, enhancing the wound-healing response. The topical use of growth factors in PRP has been shown to improve the smoothness of skin and decrease wrinkles (16–18). Many people seek out the vampire facial just for this purpose – to rejuvenate their skin and refresh their appearance.

Typically, this method alone is effective even for those with acne scars – studies have demonstrated that the side of the patient’s face that was treated using the PRP and microneedling combination showed more improvement in scarring than the side that was treated with PRP alone. (19,20) If patients have severe scarring, there is also an option to inject PRP intradermally along with microneedling and PRP serum application. This helps the PRP work from the inside out and localizes the effects of the platelets to wherever they are injected, ultimately reducing inflammation and increasing collagen production to reduce the appearance of scars. Although multiple studies demonstrate the benefits of PRP for acne scars (21–23), there is currently no standardization for its use or the technique in this treatment. More big studies are required to define these standards and also understand whether specific patient types (those with more severe acne, varying types of acne scars, duration of scars) need more frequent or intense combination therapies including PRP. (3)

Treating Thinning Hair and Hair Loss

Hair loss occurs for a variety of reasons, but the most common cause is androgenetic alopecia (AGA), otherwise known as male pattern or female pattern baldness. It is one of the more common hair loss disorders and largely affects men and to a lesser extent, women (24). Losing hair is a normal daily process and humans lose hundreds of strands daily. Unfortunately with alopecia, the hair does not grow back, which can lead to emotional and psychological distress (25). This condition is mostly genetic, but factors including diet, stress, hormonal imbalance, and other medications can contribute.

Most of the time, people will use Rogaine (Minoxidil) to try growing new, thicker hair, or Propecia (Finasteride) to prevent its loss in the first place. Some people also attempt going under the knife for hair transplant surgeries, whereby hairs are grafted from the back of the head to the front using follicular unit transplantation (FUT) or follicular unit extraction (FUE). Both processes can take several hours and require some downtime. For extensive androgenetic alopecia more than one session may be contemplated.
PRP is used to promote hair growth and follicle survival in the scalp by localizing the biological properties of the platelets. The anti-inflammatory effects of PRP are thought to reduce the inflammation associated with hair loss conditions like AGA (7,8).

Additionally, PRP can promote hair growth and follicle survival because it activates cell pathways that prevent cell death (26). Members of the medical community also suggest that PRP injections stimulate natural hair growth and maintenance by increasing blood supply to the hair follicles or increasing thickness of the hair shaft. The treatment for hair loss therapy is very similar to that of the face – the blood is drawn and processed, centrifuged to separate out the PRP from the rest of the blood, and then it is injected subdermally or subcutaneously into the scalp.

Randomized controlled trials of PRP for hair have demonstrable evidence that regular PRP treatments can significantly improve the density of hair, hair count, diameter, and shedding, but the results are likely better in patients with mild AGA or recent onset hair loss. Ultimately, this is still a relatively new field and there are inconsistencies among measurements and protocols so comparisons between studies can be limited. PRP can be combined with other treatment modalities to improve results. Thus, although there may be some recent reports and small controlled trials exploring the benefits of PRP for hair loss treatment, larger trials and more experience will help determine the efficacy of PRP therapy compared to Rogaine/Minoxidil, Low Level Laser Therapy and Propecia/Finasteride/Proscar. (25,26) Combination therapy may help maximize hair loss stabilization and hair regrowth.

What’s the Verdict?

Using PRP has yielded demonstrable benefits in both patients with acne scarring and hair loss. It also appears that the results are more remarkable in patients with lower severity of both scarring and alopecia. Evidently PRP has healing and anti-inflammatory properties, and in studies thus far it seems to increase hair number and thickness with minimal or no side effects.


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  4. Anitua E, Pino A, Jaén P, Navarro MR. Platelet rich plasma for the management of hair loss: Better alone or in combination? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Jun 14;
  5. Sadick NS, Callender VD, Kircik LH, Kogan S. New Insight Into the Pathophysiology of Hair Loss Trigger a Paradigm Shift in the Treatment Approach. J Drugs Dermatol JDD. 2017 Nov 1;16(11):s135–40.
  6. Li ZJ, Choi H-I, Choi D-K, Sohn K-C, Im M, Seo Y-J, et al. Autologous platelet-rich plasma: a potential therapeutic tool for promoting hair growth. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al. 2012 Jul;38(7 Pt 1):1040–6.
  7. Mahé YF, Michelet JF, Billoni N, Jarrousse F, Buan B, Commo S, et al. Androgenetic alopecia and microinflammation. Int J Dermatol. 2000 Aug;39(8):576–84.
  8. Magro CM, Rossi A, Poe J, Manhas-Bhutani S, Sadick N. The role of inflammation and immunity in the pathogenesis of androgenetic alopecia. J Drugs Dermatol JDD. 2011 Dec;10(12):1404–11.
  9. Stathakis V, Kilkenny M, Marks R. Descriptive epidemiology of acne vulgaris in the community. Australas J Dermatol. 1997 Aug;38(3):115–23.
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  11. Harris DW, Buckley CC, Ostlere LS, Rustin MH. Topical retinoic acid in the treatment of fine acne scarring. Br J Dermatol. 1991 Jul;125(1):81–2.
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  13. Lee JB, Chung WG, Kwahck H, Lee KH. Focal treatment of acne scars with trichloroacetic acid: chemical reconstruction of skin scars method. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al. 2002 Nov;28(11):1017–1021; discussion 1021.
  14. Abuaf OK, Yildiz H, Baloglu H, Bilgili ME, Simsek HA, Dogan B. Histologic Evidence of New Collagen Formulation Using Platelet Rich Plasma in Skin Rejuvenation: A Prospective Controlled Clinical Study. Ann Dermatol. 2016 Dec;28(6):718–24.
  15. Elghblawi E. Platelet-rich plasma, the ultimate secret for youthful skin elixir and hair growth triggering. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Sep 8;
  16. Fitzpatrick RE, Rostan EF. Reversal of photodamage with topical growth factors: a pilot study. J Cosmet Laser Ther Off Publ Eur Soc Laser Dermatol. 2003 Apr;5(1):25–34.
  17. Atkin DH, Trookman NS, Rizer RL, Schreck LE, Ho ET, Gotz V, et al. Combination of physiologically balanced growth factors with antioxidants for reversal of facial photodamage. J Cosmet Laser Ther Off Publ Eur Soc Laser Dermatol. 2010 Feb;12(1):14–20.
  18. Mehta RC, Smith SR, Grove GL, Ford RO, Canfield W, Donofrio LM, et al. Reduction in facial photodamage by a topical growth factor product. J Drugs Dermatol JDD. 2008 Sep;7(9):864–71.
  19. Nofal E, Helmy A, Nofal A, Alakad R, Nasr M. Platelet-rich plasma versus CROSS technique with 100% trichloroacetic acid versus combined skin needling and platelet rich plasma in the treatment of atrophic acne scars: a comparative study. Dermatol Surg Off Publ Am Soc Dermatol Surg Al. 2014 Aug;40(8):864–73.
  20. Fabbrocini G, De Vita G, Pastor FJ, Panariello L, Fardella N, Sepulveres R, et al. Combined use of skin needling and platelet-rich plasma in acne scarring treatment. 2011;24:117–83.
  21. Asif M, Kanodia S, Singh K. Combined autologous platelet-rich plasma with microneedling verses microneedling with distilled water in the treatment of atrophic acne scars: a concurrent split-face study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016 Dec;15(4):434–43.
  22. Ibrahim ZA, El-Ashmawy AA, Shora OA. Therapeutic effect of microneedling and autologous platelet-rich plasma in the treatment of atrophic scars: A randomized study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Sep;16(3):388–99.
  23. El-Domyati M, Abdel-Wahab H, Hossam A. Microneedling combined with platelet-rich plasma or trichloroacetic acid peeling for management of acne scarring: A split-face clinical and histologic comparison. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Feb;17(1):73–83.
  24. Giordano S, Romeo M, di Summa P, Salval A, Lankinen P. A Meta-analysis On Evidence Of Platelet-rich Plasma for Androgenetic Alopecia. Int J Trichology. 2018 Feb;10(1):1–10.
  25. Tabolli S, Sampogna F, di Pietro C, Mannooranparampil TJ, Ribuffo M, Abeni D. Health status, coping strategies, and alexithymia in subjects with androgenetic alopecia: a questionnaire study. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2013 Apr;14(2):139–45.
  26. Gupta A, Carveil J. A Mechanistic Model of Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment for Androgenetic Alopecia. Dermatol Surg. 2016;42(12):1335–9.


Hair Cloning


What if we could produce hair through the use of cloning? The treatments on the market today focus on maintaining what hair you have left or moving the small amount of permanent hair to regions where hair has been lost. Through the harnessing of tissue cloning we may soon be able to grow fresh new hair.

Cloning techniques involves the propagation of cells for therapeutic use. Human stem cells possess the unique ability to differentiate into various cell types. In injury or disease an organ may be damaged and unable to heal. By administering primed stem cells to the injured area the cells can settle in to the tissue and begin repairing or replacing the damaged tissue. This is much easier said than done!

Stem cells with the ability to differentiate into ANY cell type are extremely limited and are most abundantly found in developing embryos which makes generating them and obtaining them difficult. Stem cell contained within various tissues are already partially committed to a cell type and can function just as well in repairing the damaged their specific tissue type.

For hair, the specific stem cell is the dermal papilla cell that resides in the hair follicle. The dermal papilla cells of the healthy, long-lived, follicles do not appear to migrate from their healthy follicles to the miniaturizing follicles of the crown and hair line, and if they did migrate then the follicle left behind may become miniaturized and unable to robustly produce hair.


HairClone© is developing a technique where they harvest roughly 50 hair follicles from the permanent regions of the scalp through FUE harvest. FUE harvest results in very minimal scarring and 50 extractions are undetectable (Figure 1). Those follicles are then either stored for a later time when the patient is ready for a transplant or immediately cultured. The dermal papilla cells are cultured and propagated using advanced tissue culture techniques that maintain their potency as hair producing cells while also producing large numbers. It is this point where the balance between the ability to generate large numbers of potent cells that a breakthrough is required. Often, cells that replicate happily in tissue culture lose their characteristics as stem cells and become attenuated to grow in their new out of body environment. If the researchers at HairClone© are successful, they will be able to generate an almost limitless supply of hair growing stem cells.

Hair cloning process

Hair cloning process

Once the cells are propagated, they are injected into the balding scalp of the donor patient. Hypothetically, the cells will migrate to the miniaturized follicles in the balding region or begin the formation of novel hair follicles. The growth of the hair in the balding regions is then monitored to determine if further treatments are necessary.
Won’t the new hair fall out just like the other hair in the area? At this point it is not known if the new hair is “permanent”, >50 year, or >20 year. It is hypothesized that since the source of the stem cells is from the permanent hair of the back of the head, the newly formed follicles will be resistant to the factors that contribute to androgenetic alopecia.

We are excited to see if this technology will develop into a treatment that we could someday offer to our patients as an effective treatment for hair loss.

The Basics of Hair


Hair and hair restoration terminology can be confusing on the surface. This article will better acquaint you with the details of hair and language that is used by professionals. Reviewing this article should help you better understand the advice and descriptions provided by your hair restoration surgeon as well as prepare you for asking questions so that you get the most accurate information. We at Seager want you to feel informed and comfortable throughout the entire process of hair restoration.
In this article we will go over follicle anatomy and the role of different parts of the follicle. Next we will discuss how hair grows and what that means for baldness. We will next talk about the characteristics of hair and how it is pigmented and why hair maintains a curl. Hair density and the permanence of hair will be discussed and finally common hair disorders.

The hair follicle

Each hair follicle is considered a mini organ with different components that each possesses a distinct function (Figure 1). The root sheath of the follicle is a specialized layer of cells that house the hair bulb and growing hair fibre. The hair fibre is what you see protruding from the scalp and it is composed of three distinct cell types all of which are dead by the time the hair fibre grows out of the root sheath. The hair bulb contains the dividing cells that grow into the hair fibre. Along the length of the root sheath we find a small anchoring muscle, the arrector pili, which is responsible for making the hair stand up in response to emotional stimuli (e.g., fear or surprise) or physical stimuli (e.g., chill). Also attached to the root sheath is the sebaceous gland which is responsible for coating the hair with sebum. Sebum is necessary to prevent the hair fibre from becoming too dry as well as lubricating it as it emerges from the hair follicle.

The anatomy of the hair follicle

The Hair Follicle is a mini organ consisting of many parts.


Follicular units

If we observe from the level of the scalp we see that hairs appear to protrude from the scalp in irregular groups. It turns out that follicles tend to arrange in groups of 1-4 resulting in what are called follicular units. Follicular units share usually the same pore or pores very close together. In rare instances up to 7 hairs have been observed in single follicular units. The hair follicles of the body do not tend to group together to such a high number with 2 being the typical maximum count.
The distribution of the follicular unit density is not uniform throughout the scalp. Hair restoration surgeons have observed that 1-2 hair containing follicular units are normally found at the hair line with higher density follicular units (i.e., >3 hairs per follicular unit) found in the mid scalp and vertex (i.e., the crown) (Figure 2). The distribution of follicular units of different densities contributes to the natural fullness of scalp hair and the softness of the hair line. Natural looking hair line restoration requires the placement of single hairs followed by greater density implantation to prevent an artificial “too dense” hair line that can be produce by in-experienced practitioners. Hair restorations surgeons take immense care to study the density of a patient’s hair to plan the appropriate hair line so that a natural-looking hair is restored.

Hair follicle groupings

Hair Follicles can be in groups of 1-3, with rare instances of 4 or 5!

Hair growth cycle

Human hair grows asynchronously which is to say that it does not grow and shed all at once. Most other mammals have synchronous hair growth to accommodate changes in season. The random distribution of hair, in various points of the hair growth cycle, ensures that there are always 85% of our available follicles containing hair (1). Any given follicle can grow hair for between 3-10 years, with this number varying between people. With hair growing about 1.3 cm per month (2), human hair reaches an average maximum length of 101 cm. Some people’s hair grows faster but for less time and some people’s hair grows slowly for a longer time.
The hair cycle is described by 4 distinct steps; anagen, catagen, early telogen, and late telogen. Anagen is the growth part of the cycle and lasts roughly 6 years. Anagen is followed by the brief catagen phase, where the follicle stops producing additional hair. In early telogen, the follicle prepares to shed the hair. The final step of the hair growth cycle is the late telogen where the follicle rests.

The hair growth cycle

Hair follicles produce hair by growing through a cycle.

Chemical communication occurs between the hair follicle and the nearby fat layer of the skin, which appears to play a crucial role in perpetuating the hair cycle. Maintaining or reinitiating this communication, is the subject of intense research. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) (3) and transplantation of fat-derived stem cells (4) aim to coax the hair follicle back into the anagen step of the hair cycle.

Hair fibre and curl

The hair fibre is composed of three layers; the outermost cuticle, the cortex, and the innermost medulla (5) (Figure 4A). The cuticle is the protective layer that surrounds the inner cells of the hair. The cuticle itself does not have any colour. The bulk of the hair fibre is made up of the cortex cells that provide the structure of the hair by contain large amounts of the protein keratin. The cortex cells also contain the pigment that imparts colour to the hair fibre. The function of the medulla is bot well understood.
The curl of hair is created by the shape of the follicle beneath the skin (6,7). A curved follicle produces a curled hair fibre. As the hair bulb produces cortex cells, they fill up all of the space of the root sheath. The cells at the outside of the curve tend to be longer while the cells at the inside of the curve tend to be shorter. The shape is made permanent once the cortex cells die as the hair fibre emerges from the follicle. The shape of the exit of the pore also has been implicated in the hair curl. A more round pore exit is associated with straight hair, while an elliptical pore exit is associated with curly hair.
Modification to the curl of hair can be induced by heat, humidity, or chemicals. Heating of the hair fibre with blow dryers or hair irons cause changes to hydrogen bonds within the keratin of the cortex cells. Throughout the day the hair continuously absorbs humidity from the environment which reverses the hydrogen bond breakage.

Anatomy of the hair fibre

The structure of hair is made up of three distinct layers. The cortext contains two a ratio of two distinct pigments that result in the colour of the hair.

Permanent hair straightening or curling is performed with chemicals that are able to break the disulfide bonds of the hair fibre. The disulfide bonds of hair are much stronger than the hydrogen bonds that can be simply heat treated. The chemical agents used in permanent straining or curling are very harsh and may damage the scalp is incorrectly handled.

Hair colour

Human hair colour is the product of a ratio of two melanin molecules; eumelanin and pheomelanin (8) (Figure 4B). All of the ranges of hair colour from blonde, red, brown, to black are created by the ratio of eumelanin and pheomelanin. As one ages the cells responsible for making the pigment become less effective and produce less pigment resulting in grey or white hair.
Hair may be coloured artificially with different levels of permanence. The cuticle of the hair fibre prevents environmental chemicals from entering into the hair but it also possesses properties that we can harness for artificial colouring. Temporary hair dye is designed to bind to the cuticle and is typically composed of large pigments molecules. Due to the loose association of the large pigment molecules with cuticle, they can easily be washed out. Semi-permanent hair dye functions like temporary dye, in that is able to interact with the rough texture of the cuticle but is instead composed of small pigment molecules that are more difficult to wash out of the rough cuticle. Permanent hair dye requires a different approach where the pigment molecules absorb into the cortex of the hair fibre where it cannot be washed out easily. To allow passage of the dye into the cortex of the hair fibre the hair is made to swell by applying an oxidizing agent and an alkaline agent.

Hair density and hair caliber

Humans possess roughly 100 000 hair follicles throughout the body and 20 000 of those are located on scalp. The appearance of a dense head of hair is the sum of multiple aspects of hair. The scalp of average person has roughly 80 follicular units/cm2 (5).
The apparent density is the result of the relationship of hair growing out of the scalp. Follicle units that contain greater numbers of hairs (e.g., 3-4 hairs) tend to impart greater density. The density of hair is highest at the top of the head and at the crown. The density of the hair at the hairline is considerably less with many follicular units containing only one or two hairs. Hair restoration surgeons take this fact into account, reserving 1 and 2 hair grafts for the hairline and greater hair grafts for space filling.
Hair caliber describes the relationship between the number of hair and hair diameter. Thick hair fibres have a thickness of 90-100 μm, medium hair has a thickness of 50-80 μm, and thin hair has a thickness of 30-40 μm. When determining hair caliper we take into account both the hair thickness and follicular density. A person with 50 units/cm2 and a thickness of 100 μm has roughly double the hair mass of a person with 85 units/cm2 with a hair thickness of 30 μm.
In male and female pattern baldness hair density is lost through the follicles miniaturizing and converting to produce vellus hairs. Vellus hairs are different from the thick pigmented terminal hair of the scalp because they do not contain pigment, are thin, and only grow a few centimeters.

Permanent and non-permanent hair

Not all of the hair of the scalp is vulnerable to male or female pattern baldness. Hair restoration surgeons have observed innumerable cases of hair loss and have determined the regions of the scalp where hair is deemed permanent. Specifically this is hair on the back of the head between the middle of the neck. The permanent region continues in a band from this region to over the ears and onto the temples. Any harvesting of hair grafts occurs from these permanent regions as any harvesting performed outside of these regions may end up falling out as male pattern baldness progresses.

Hair disorders

Androgenetic alopecia

Androgenetic alopecia is the medical name for the common age related hair loss that affects both men and women. Treatment for the condition can be performed pharmaceutically through the administration of topical minoxidil for men and women or oral finasteride for men. Finasteride is only indicated for use in men due to complications that could arise should pregnancy occur. Androgenetic alopecia presents in different ways in men and women. Men experience a distinct pattern called male pattern baldness where the hairline recedes accompanied a thinning of the crown. Female pattern baldness presents as diffuse thinning of the hair.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is a rare auto-immune disease that causes patchy hair loss. Alopecia areata is treated with immune modulatory pharmaceuticals and corticosteroids (1,9). Alopecia areata affects men and women equally and can vary dramatically in severity. Alopecia totalis is a form of alopecia areata that affects the entire scalp. Alopecia universalis is the more severe form of alopecia where then entire body does not have hair. Alopecia areata can in some patients be permanent but is often temporary or cyclical. Individuals with alopecia areata may be eligible for a hair transplant if a region of hair loss has been stable without further hair loss for one year.


This review hopes to give you the basics of hair biology and inform you of aspects of hair anatomy that are relevant in how you hair restoration surgeon makes decisions about your treatment.


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Fat Cells for Hair Regeneration


Hair is one of the most important symbols of youth and vitality. People throughout history have sought methods to maintain and restore ones hair. Hair loss, especially in the young, can be psychologically devastating (1). For sufferers of male- and female-pattern baldness there is the potential for surgery to move healthy hair bearing follicles to bald scalp. Surgery however is not always possible in cases where the cause of hair loss is autoimmune as is the case in alopecia areata and scarring alopecia.
New research into the hair growth cycle and its associated phases has revealed the striking link between dermal adipose tissue (fat tissue) and the hair follicle (2–5). Fat tissue, it seems, is a multi-functional tissue that performs essential tasks outside of the scope of simple energy storage.
Fat tissue has also demonstrated its potential as a source of stem cell with the capability of being harnessed for therapeutic treatments. Here we present some of the exciting science of hair regeneration using adipose derived stem cells.

The Hair Cycle

Hair growth in humans is the result of the asynchronous growth of the follicles of the scalp (6). Each follicle undergoes four distinct phases: anagen, where the hair follicle grows; catagen, where the hair follicle ceases producing hair; early telogen, where the follicle is in a resting phase; and late telogen, where the follicle has shed its hair and is awaiting a signal to commence growth of a new hair. Humans are unlike other mammals in that they do not shed all of their hair at once. The anagen phase of hair growth can last between 3 to 10 years resulting in an average maximum length of hair of 100 cm. At any given time roughly 80% of follicles are in anagen and the remaining 20% are shedding, or resting. The combination of short growing hairs, full length (trimmed to desired length), and resting follicles results in the appearance of a full head of hair.
Investigations into the anatomy of the hair follicle in relation to the hair growth cycle have demonstrated that the follicle undergoes great changes in size. The follicle is at its largest during anagen and begins to recede during catagen. During telogen, the follicle is at its smallest. Along with these changes in size was the observation that the fat that lies under the skin, the dermal adipose tissue, would increase in size with the follicle such that the two tissues would physically touch. This observation was made in other mammal including mice and rabbits.

Fat tissue as a source of stem cells

Fat tissue is composed of more cell types than previously thought. Primarily the fat tissue is composed of adipocytes that contain the white fat that define the tissue. The other cells that reside in adipose tissue are circulating blood cells, fibroblasts, pericytes, endothelial cells, and pre-adipocytes. Pre-adipocytes are the most sought after cells because of their characteristic of being stem cells. For simplicity, pre-adipocytes are typically referred to as adipose derived stem cells. Adipose derived stem cells, it turns out, are one of the primary cell types responsible for driving the hair cycle.
When we think of stem cells, we think of the ability of specialized cells to change their function and become other types of tissue. While adipose derived stem cells have the ability to be coaxed into various cell types under lab specific conditions, during the hair cycle these cells don’t actually become hair follicle cells. They instead chemically communicate with the follicle in the creation of a feedback loop (discussed below). For a stem cell to make a good therapeutic treatment it must adhere to some basic characteristics. These include: obtainability through minimally invasive procedures, possess the ability to differentiate into multiple cell types reproducibly, be in high abundance, and be able to handle transplantation. Adipose derived stem cells are relatively abundant in fat tissue at roughly 3% which is significantly higher than other stem cell sources such as bone marrow who are only composed of roughly 0.01% stem cells (7,8). Adipose derived stem cells are easily transplanted and in high abundance making them an excellent candidate for therapeutics for these reasons (4,5).

Hair Follicle Anatomy

Hair follicles produce hair by going through distinct phases that involve the chemical feedback loop between adipose derived stem cells, mature adipocytes (fat cells) and the hair follicle. The anagen phase when the hair is growing sees the hair follicle grown to its largest size. At this point the adipose tissue also expands to engulf the root of the follicle. The cells of the hair follicle communicate with the adipose derived stem cells within the fat tissue. This indicates to the adipose derived stem cells to begin differentiation into fat cells. Differentiation is the act of a stem cell committing to a cell type. The hair follicle signals also tell the surrounding adipocytes to begin growing and increase their size.
During catagen, the hair follicle undergoes programmed cell death resulting in its overall shrinkage. At this time the hair follicle stops signaling for the fat tissue to grow and maintain its size resulting in the two tissues separating.
In early telogen, the hair follicle conversely, begins to be influenced by the fat cells. The fat cells send inhibitory signals to the hair follicle that encourage it to remain in a resting state, not producing hair. During this time the follicle has reached its smallest size but we still see a full length hair.
At the end of telogen, the hair is shed and the signaling environment begins to change. Induced by an unknown factor, the ASCs cells begin to send growth signals to the hair follicle inducing its grown and entry into the anagen phase. The signals of the fat cells are potentially blocked or out competed by the pro-growth signals of the adipose derived stem cells. Once the hair begins growth the follicle is back in the anagen phase.
The role of adipose in the form of adipose derived stem cells (stimulatory) and fat cells (inhibitory) then becomes clear. While the role of adipose derived stem cells is only half of the communication, it presents the question of whether it is possible to induce follicle entry into anagen (growth phase) by transplanting adipose derived stem cells into bald scalp.

Adipose derived stem cells used therapeutically

Fat cells and adipose derived stem cells compete for influence over the hair follicle. Transplantation of complete fat tissue into the scalp may not influence the microenvironment of the hair follicle because of this inherent competition. For effective use as a therapeutic the cell transplantation should contain an enriched population of adipose derived stem cells. Adipose tissue is harvested easily and routinely through liposuction procedures. To process the tissue and enrich the adipose derived stem cells population they must be separated from the fat cells. Centrifugation forces non-fat containing cells to the bottom of a sample tube thus making separation of the cells easy. Fat cells contain large quantities of white adipose making them unable to sink. These floating cells can then be discarded leaving only active cells. The cells can used in this state or undergo further processing. The optimal procedure for preparing and administering adipose derived stem cells has not been yet been determined.

Ongoing in clinical trials

The gold standard for developing a treatment is to perform clinical trials. Clinical trials are composed of a few crucial components that prove efficacy and safety of a given intervention. The two exciting trials discussed below are registered with the National Institute of Health (NIH, and are great examples with use of placebo (no active ingredient in the intervention) and participant blinding (preventing the patient or physician from knowing the true identity of the intervention). The world of stem cell research is expanding quickly and regulatory bodies like the FDA are responding in kind to create investigatory pipelines that expedite the approval of novel therapies (9).
The first trial (NCT02849470) is being undertaken by Healeon Medical in the treatment of male and female pattern baldness (10). The trial utilizes adipose derived stem cells that are further processed enriched, and administered to the scalp. The trial is currently enrolling patients 18 and older and is estimated to have 60 participants. The study began in 2016 and is slated to be completed in 2023.
The second trial (NCT03078686) is being undertaken by Dr. Ryan Welter of Regeneris Medical (11). This trial tests the hypothetical abilities of ASCs even further by utilizing them to treat scarring alopecia and alopecia areata. Both scarring alopecia and alopecia areata being autoimmune related with patients having reduced options for treatment. The trial is set to be completed in June 2019.

Non-FDA approved uses of stem cells

The FDA is extremely cautious when it comes to approval of new therapeutics. Current the only approved use of stem cell is in the transplantation of bone marrow (9,12). For any treatment to attain approval they must be backed up by a large body of clinical trials. The status of most stem cell applications are either for use with patients with terminal conditions, who have exhausted their options, or in experimental treatments whose efficacy and safety have not been determined. The hype around the potential uses of stem cell therapies have led to innumerable unscrupulous businesses administering and marketing untested and potentially dangerous treatments to naïve patients.
If a treatment sounds too good to be true then it probably is! Certainly make sure to question any treatment that does not report potential adverse reactions. If you find yourself unsure of an offered treatment, the FDA provides excellent resources for patients on a wide range of treatments and medical devices (


We at Seager Hair Transplant Centre are excited about the future of adipose derived stem cell treatments. With the methods and safety still in the experimental stage, we are not ready to provide stem cell treatments at this time. The results of the clinical trials discussed above will greatly increase our understanding of stem cell use in hair regeneration.


1. Liu LY, King BA, Craiglow BG. Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among patients with alopecia areata (AA): A systematic review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016 Oct;75(4):806–812.e3.
2. Chase HB, Montagna W, Malone JD. Changes in the skin in relation to the hair growth cycle. Anat Rec. 1953 May;116(1):75–81.
3. Festa E, Fretz J, Berry R, Schmidt B, Rodeheffer M, Horowitz M, et al. Adipocyte lineage cells contribute to the skin stem cell niche to drive hair cycling. Cell. 2011 Sep 2;146(5):761–71.
4. Bunnell BA, Flaat M, Gagliardi C, Patel B, Ripoll C. Adipose-derived stem cells: isolation, expansion and differentiation. Methods San Diego Calif. 2008 Jun;45(2):115–20.
5. Gimble JM. Adipose tissue-derived therapeutics. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2003 Aug;3(5):705–13.
6. Unger WP, Shapiro R, Unger R, Unger M, editors. Hair Transplantation. 5th ed. Informa Healthcare; 2011. 538 p.
7. De Ugarte DA, Morizono K, Elbarbary A, Alfonso Z, Zuk PA, Zhu M, et al. Comparison of multi-lineage cells from human adipose tissue and bone marrow. Cells Tissues Organs. 2003;174(3):101–9.
8. National Institutes of Health , U.S. NIH Stem Cell Information Home Page. In: Stem Cell Information [Internet]. Bethesda, MD: Department of Health and Human Services; 2016 [cited 2019 Mar 6]. Available from:
9. Marks P, Gottlieb S. Balancing Safety and Innovation for Cell-Based Regenerative Medicine. N Engl J Med. 2018 08;378(10):954–9.
10. Healeon Medical Inc. AGA BioCellular Stem/Stromal Hair Regenerative Study (STRAAND) (NCT02849470) [Internet]. NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2019 [cited 2019 Mar 1]. Available from:
11. Welter R. Biocellular-Cellular Regenerative Treatment Scaring Alopecia and Alopecia Areata (SAAA) (NCT03078686) [Internet]. NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2018 [cited 2019 Mar 1]. Available from:
12. Marks PW, Witten CM, Califf RM. Clarifying Stem-Cell Therapy’s Benefits and Risks. N Engl J Med. 2017 Mar 16;376(11):1007–9.

Pioneers of hair transplantation in Toronto


The first record of a successful hair transplant was in 1822, when a German medical student named Diffenbach performed an experimental surgery on himself and his mentor Dr. Dom Unger, they used hair from one area of a patient’s scalp and transported it to another area1.

The first modern surgical technique was described in 1939 by a Japanese dermatologist named Dr. Shoji Okuda. Dr. Okuda published what became known as “The Okuda Papers” in the Japanese Journal of Dermatology and Urology, describing his technique, full-thickness grafts of hair-bearing skin from hair-bearing areas to hairless areas to correct hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows and upper lip. These papers did not gain notoriety until 2003 when Dr Yoshihiro Imagawa was able to translate them for English speaking audiences post World War II2. In 1952 an American Dermatologist named Dr Norman Orentirech performed the first modern-day hair transplant in New York3. Dr. Orentreich was able to publish his work in 1959 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science and it is this work that underlies all modern hair restoration endeavours. The paper presented the concept of “donor dominance” and “recipient dominance” for the first time. This was significant as the donor dominance concept explained the contradictory results of many previous hair transplantation studies.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until mid-1990 that surgical hair restoration came out of the dark ages to yield actual ‘natural hair’ resembling results. This is due to the introduction of follicular unit micrografting or follicular unit transplantation (FUT). This has made follicular unit extraction hair transplantation a virtually undetectable, practical option for many hair loss sufferers.


Toronto, Ontario, in particular, has seen its fair share of pioneering hair transplant surgeons. One of the first is Dr Walter P. Unger. Dr Unger is a clinical professor of Dermatology and Director of the Dermatologic Surgery Fellowship Program at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, as well as a Director of the Fellowship Program for the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery. He is an associate professor (Dermatology) at the University of Toronto. He was the adjunct professor (Dermatology) at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland from 2003 to 2007. He has private practices in Toronto and New York City4.

Dr Unger advanced Dr Orentreich’s principle of “donor dominance” in 1994 by helping shape surgeons’ understanding of the limitations of the donor area from which hair follicles are harvested. He was the first surgeon to define the parameters of what he defined as the “Donor Zone”, the zone from which the most permanent hair follicles can be extracted for transplantation. We know that transplanted hair will only last in its new site for as long as it would have lasted in the original one. These findings from Dr Unger continue to serve as the groundwork for hair follicle harvesting on which both FUT and follicular unit extraction (FUE) are based.


In 1995, Dr Unger was presented a Golden Follicle award for clinical expertise from the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS)5. In October 2003, Dr Unger also won the Pioneer in Education Award-Hair Restoration from the ISHRS5. In 2007 and 2001 he won the Teacher-of-the-Year, Department of Dermatology, Mt. Sinai Medical School, New York and is considered one of Castle Connolly’s “Top Doctors” in New York Metro Area starting from 2007 to the present.

Dr Mark Unger is another independent practitioner of hair restoration surgery. He was a co-editor for Hair Transplantation, 5th Ed., the reference textbook in the field of hair transplantation. He is also a fellow of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgeons. Additionally, he authored chapters on Hair Transplantation in major cosmetic surgery and dermatology textbooks. He also practices hair transplants in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. David J. Seager, is one of the true pioneers of Toronto hair transplants, his reputation as a truly innovative hair transplant pioneer is well known within the hair restoration world. He was the first to perform high density “one pass” sessions in the mid to late 1990s. The high-density sessions means an excess of 3,000 grafts at a time. Dr. Seager and his staff also pioneered what would become known within the hair transplant community as “Ultra Refined Follicular Unit Hair Transplantation”. So the Dr. Seager signature hair transplant was 3,000 graft densely packed “One area – One session”, then the Follicular Unit Micrograft Hair Transplant procedure was turned into a team effort, so the grafts were immediately placed into the incision after the tiny needle incision was made6. This technique is referred to as “stick and place” technique. This technique is ideal as it enables the staff to use smaller and less invasive needles for the incisions. It is easier to place a small graft into a small incision if it is a fresh incision. In October of 2001, Dr. Seager was honoured with the Golden Follicle Award by the ISHRS in recognition for his many clinical contributions to the field of hair transplantation5. Additionally, other well-known hair transplant surgeons from around the world have chosen to travel to Toronto to have Dr. Seager perform their own personal hair transplant procedures. Dr. Seager passed away in December 2006.

The City of Toronto for a Hair Transplant

Toronto, Ontario is a good city to choose to undergo a hair transplant. There clearly is a strong history of pioneers in the hair transplant industry and hair transplant doctors are well experienced. If you are planning on coming into the city from out of town, hotels and amenities are close and affordable. Additionally, welcoming over 40 million visitors annually, Toronto is the leading tourism destination in Canada7. Toronto is a bold, dynamic city that offers excellent attractions, music and events backed by the best convention and sports facilities in Canada.

Visit The Seager Hair Transplant Centre in Toronto


  1. Historical Overview: 181 Years of Hair Restoration Surgery [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 29]. Available from:
  2. Jimenez F, Shiell RC. The Okuda Papers: an extraordinary – but unfortunately unrecognized – piece of work that could have changed the history of hair transplantation. Exp Dermatol. 2015;24:185–6.
  3. The father of Hair Restoration. Dr. Norman Orentreich, 1953.| New Orleans, LA [Internet]. Hair Transplant & Hair Restoration Ctr | New Orleans, LA. 2016 [cited 2018 Jan 30]. Available from:
  4. Toronto 5 Burton Rd, Maps OCP-9393 S map: G. Walter P. Unger, MD | Hair Loss Doctor Toronto | ISHRS [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 29]. Available from:
  5. ISHRS Past Award Winners | International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 30]. Available from:
  6. Dr. David Seager has passed away but his legacy remains. | Regrow Hair Q&A [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 30]. Available from:
  7. Tourism [Internet]. City of Toronto. 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 30]. Available from: