Teri Lee is in her 60s and has kept herself in great shape, but for the last several years, she's noticed a change she's been unable to control -- the steady loss of her hair.
"When I hit 60, I noticed a tremendous change, even using the topicals and the lotions and the potions, it was just getting increasingly thinner," said Lee.
After trying products such as Minoxidil, Lee decided to undergo a new and still unproven treatment derived from her own body.
At Reviv Med Spa in Millbrae, Gayle Misle, M.D., takes a sample of Lee's blood, then spins it in a centrifuge to extract what is known as platelet rich plasma, or PRP.
"What we're hoping for with the PRP is to provide a patient with growth factors from their platelets. These growth factors will stimulate hair growth and decrease the loss of hair," said Misle.
After removing the concentrated plasma, Misle injects it directly into Teri's scalp. She says she's used the technique to treat both men and women with early signs of success.
"Particularly for what we call female or male pattern baldness, which is in front of the head or the crown. Those are the areas that I've seen the greatest success with," said Misle.
Interest in PRP has accelerated in recent years, from its use in sports medicine, including the treatment of golfer Tiger Woods' knee injury, to its use as a facial filler. Some researchers believe PRP releases growth factors similar to stem cell therapy to promote healing, but its benefits for hair loss are still being debated.
San Francisco dermatologist Vic Narurkar, M.D., says there has been only minimal research, with one small European study finding an apparent benefit. He says, "But there aren't any controlled long-term clinical trials on the use of this for stand-alone treatment of hair loss."
Misle says the visual results have been encouraging. Some before and after photos of male patients showed an apparent thickening of the hair at both the front of the hairline and the crown. And while those improvements were not confirmed by a clinical hair count, patients like Lee believe they're seeing benefits.
"After about a week or two, I noticed areas around my temple that were getting very bare started to not seem so thin," said Lee.
The cost ranges from about $900 for a single treatment, to $2,500 for a set of three treatments. PRP is also being used in conjunction with some hair transplant procedures, but there is no long-term research proving it works.