THE NEW WAY TO “GROW” MORE HAIR
This treatment uses cells from your own scalp to help reverse early hair loss. Here’s what you should know about who it’s for, the gain and the possible pain.
This treatment uses cells from your own scalp to trigger hair growth.
One session is usually sufficient, and patients can expect to see less hair fall and thicker strands after four to five weeks. The treatment works best for hair loss in its early stages, when the scalp is not yet visible.
For Tricia Ong, 30-year-old social media personality and founder of local boutique Vaingloriousyou, taking care of her appearance is part of her job.
She is extra-mindful about thinning hair. “I was pulling my hair back into a bun one day when I noticed a bald spot at my hairline,” she says. She found a relatively new anti-hair loss treatment called Regenera Activa, available at some medical clinics.
Pioneered in Barcelona, Spain, the one-hour procedure works by taking regenerative cells from a healthy part of the scalp and injecting them into balding areas. As the theory goes, these cells will stimulate and strengthen weakened follicles so they produce thicker, healthier hair.
It’s approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration, the equivalent governing bodies in Europe, Korea and Japan, and Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority. Compared with hair transplant surgery, which is known to be costly, painful and have a lengthy downtime, Regenera Activa is reportedly far less traumatic.
Says Dr Justin Boey, medical director of Sozo Aesthetic Clinic: “The ‘micrografts’ are extracted from your own body. This means it is completely natural and safe, with no risk of rejection or allergy.”
Not everyone is convinced, however. Dermatologist Dr Etienne Wang, a consultant at the National Skin Centre, says that stem cell therapy for regenerative medicine (which includes regrowing hair follicles) is still a very new concept. He doubts the treatment can deliver significant results and advises that patients go in with a healthy dose of scepticism.
“Theoretically, we should be able to use patients’ own stem cells and growth factors to stimulate the growth of various tissues. However, in real life, these technologies are unproven, and we do not understand the way cells reorganise to form hair follicles in human skin,” he says, adding that as the treatments are currently unregulated and experimental, side effects are unknown.
Kick-starting weak follicles
Local anaesthetic is first injected into the back of the head. Cells are taken from this part of the scalp as it tends to have the densest hair and healthiest follicles.
A biopsy punch – a penlike device doctors use to extract tissue samples for lab testing – is used to harvest the cells, a mix of hair follicle stem cells, fat-derived regenerative cells and endothelial cells (found in the interior lining of blood vessels).
Dr Karen Soh, medical director of Prive Clinic, says: “The samples go through mechanical processing and filtration in a specialised Regenera Activa device to isolate progenitor cells, stem cells and growth factors that have regenerative abilities.”
Once prepared, these micro-grafts are planted into the balding area via manual microinjections using a very fine needle. The number varies from 20 to 60, depending on the size of the treated area and the severity of hair loss.
Dr Joshua Chong, medical director of Terra Medical Clinic, highlights that the depth of the injections is crucial to the outcome. “Regenera micro-grafts act on hair follicles, so the doctor must have an understanding of their physiology and the scalp’s anatomy to know the right depth,” he says
At SW1 Clinic, a similar procedure called Keraclone is on the table. Like Regenera Activa, it uses the patient’s healthy scalp cells to encourage weak follicles to regenerate, and involves the same steps. However, the clinic claims to have refined its techniques to minimise scarring and discomfort during cell harvesting and microinjection.
Mild thinning does it
Regenera Activa is for those in the early to middle stages of hair loss. This means women experiencing thinning hair all over the head but have no significant bald spot yet, and men starting to bald above the temples and at the crown.
Prices start from around $3,700. One session is normally sufficient; more serious cases may need two. Patients can apparently see improvements like less hair fall and thicker strands after four to five weeks. So far, reported results last three years – the length of time the treatment has been in use. Studies are ongoing.
For Ong, who did the treatment five months ago,