“Stem cells” are everywhere. Literally. These cells exist ubiquitously in our bodies and are responsible for the generation and regeneration of your body’s tissue. Given that stem cells regenerate tissue, it makes sense that advances in this technology would be applied to the problem of hair loss.
Unfortunately, even the most logical of treatment steps must yield to the reality of the biological systems of the body. In the case of hair, the biological system is much more complex than anyone initially anticipated. Stem cell therapy has not yet been proven to regenerate hair. Several good studies are ongoing, but they have not yielded even preliminarily positive results (yet! – everyone is hopeful!). In other words, anyone selling a patient “stem cell treatments” that are “guaranteed” to regenerate hair is offering an unproven and potentially harmful treatment!
This has not stopped unscrupulous players from preying upon emotionally vulnerable patients experiencing hair loss. Since 2017, the FDA has been investigating and regulating “Stem Cell Clinics,” due to overwhelming public outcry and frustration from the ethical practitioners and valid researchers in the field. It is prudent for patients seeking hair loss services to be skeptical of any practitioner offering stem cell treatments as if they were a proven therapy. A good way to evaluate the veracity of an individual physician or surgeon is to check the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery website (www.abhrs.org) to see if they are a “diplomate” (i.e. they passed the rigorous oral and written exams). You can also check the FDA or online databases for approved stem cell studies that are legitimate and ongoing.
We all hope for a breakthrough that will magically restore and regenerate hair. Until we have proof though, avoid unproven treatments like stem cell injections, even if they look promising from their online advertising, and especially if they are in other countries! Not only are you taking financial risk, but you might be taking a medical risk as well.
FDA cracks down on stem cell clinics
The Washington Post (8/28, McGinley) reports that the Food and Drug Administration “announced a crackdown on stem-cell clinics offering unproven and potentially dangerous treatments.” In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said the agency “will not allow deceitful actors to take advantage of vulnerable patients by purporting to have treatments or cures for serious diseases without any proof that they actually work.” In a separate statement, Dr. Gottlieb said that while regenerative medicine holds “significant promise for transformative and potentially curative treatments” for serious illnesses, “a small number of unscrupulous actors” is jeopardizing the field.
The Wall Street Journal (8/28, Rockoff, Subscription Publication) reports that the decision signals that the Food and Drug Administration intends to exercise its authority over regenerative medicine, after declining to do so for several years.
The New York Times (8/28, Kaplan, Grady, Subscription Publication) reports that “some industry representatives applauded the move” as necessary to remove bad actors from a maturing field. Public health advocates “praised” the FDA “for moving against the companies, but said it should have happened sooner, given the widespread knowledge of public harm.”
Bloomberg News (8/28, Edney) reports that “over the next several months, the FDA plans to clarify which treatments will fall under its oversight, and tell providers of the therapies what they need to do to get regulators’ approval.”