Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections have been catching on as a treatment for female and male pattern baldness. The treatment has shown quite a bit of promise, leading doctors to seek PRP therapy training at the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI). The ARMI believes PRP may prove even more promising in the future thanks to a new study designed to uncover the anatomy of hair loss.
Researchers from the Perleman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have been doing research to try to uncover why hair grows in some spots but not others. They think that unlocking the secret could open the door to both treating hair loss and preventing hair from growing where it is deemed unattractive.
The researchers think they are on to something with the discovery of a naturally occurring inhibitor they believe might be involved in blocking hair growth. If their research turns out to be correct, future hair loss treatments could combine PRP therapy with other strategies that address the inhibitor issue.
Blocking Signal Pathways
The simplest way to understand what the University of Pennsylvania researchers discovered is to compare it to a rail line. In areas where you have multiple lines intersecting one another in order to serve multiple trains on their way to different destinations, signals have to be put in place to control traffic. A train approaching an intersection may be blocked from continuing by a signal that tells the engineer to stop.
Likewise, the human body contains a large number of different pathways by which information is sent. Researchers discovered that a particular signaling pathway responsible for hair growth can be blocked by an inhibitor known as WNT. Where the inhibitor is present, hair does not grow. Researchers discovered this by studying the skin of mice.
Their evidence shows that the signaling pathway is initially opened during the fetal stage. Once open, it activates genes related to follicle and hair development. From that point through most of a person’s adult life, the follicles undergo a continual cycle of “growth, regression, rest, and regrowth,” the researchers say. If the pathways associated with a certain area of the skin are blocked by WNT, the follicles in that area will not produce hair.
Hair Loss and PRP Therapy
What the University of Pennsylvania researchers have discovered is fascinating all by itself. It becomes even more so when you consider the purpose behind using PRP therapy to treat hair loss. As you may already know, PRP therapy takes advantage of blood platelets and growth factors to stimulate hair growth by providing some of what the body needs to do so.
Could it be that any one of the growth factors in PRP is responsible for addressing WNT? Could it be that some of those growth factors are reopening blocked signal pathways in order to allow new hair to grow? That is something we don’t know. And we cannot know until science is more concrete about the relationship between WNT and hair loss.
If one assumes the WNT research is accurate as it stands, the next step would be to study the relationship between its function and the function of blood platelets and their growth factors. Understanding how they interact could then help us understand not only how to reverse hair loss, but also how to prevent it altogether.
It is an exciting time to be engaged in regenerative medicine. Research is slowly unwrapping the potential of PRP and other regenerative medicine therapies to treat conditions in entirely new ways. The ARMI is proud to be part of it.