While shedding a few hairs on a daily basis is normal, losing more than 100 hairs per day is considered excessive and may be an indication of a serious issue. Male-pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss, affecting roughly 40 million men in the US. Approximately 25 percent of men with male-pattern hair loss will begin to lose their hair by age 30, and up to 66 percent will begin balding by age 60. And hair loss isn’t exclusively a male problem – approximately 50 percent of all women over the age of 50 experience a similar condition, referred to as female androgenic alopecia.
Male Pattern Hair Loss
Male-pattern hair loss is closely linked to androgens – sex steroid hormones synthesized from cholesterol in the testes, ovaries and adrenal glands. The primary androgens testosterone, pregnenolone, androstenedione and DHEA (dehydro-epiandrosterone) normally regulate male and female sexual development and behavior by binding to receptors on target cells throughout the body.
Another androgen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), has been identified by researchers as a primary cause of male pattern baldness. DHT is synthesized from testosterone by the enzyme 5alpha-reductase. When DHT binds to receptors in the hair follicle, it causes the hair roots to shrink, or “miniaturize.” DHT has also been shown to shorten the amount of time hair spends in the growing (anagen) phase from as long as five years down to as little as two months.
In 1998, researchers discovered that men genetically prone to male pattern baldness have more androgen receptors in the hair follicles located across the forehead and scalp, exactly those areas where hair loss first appears in androgenic alopecia. These androgen-sensitive follicles also contain significantly higher levels of 5alpha-reductase (1.5 to 3 times higher) and DHT than hair follicles from other areas of the scalp.
Over time, DHT’s effects begin to shrink adult hairs, resulting in very fine, short hairs that are 90 percent thinner than normal adult hairs, causing the “peach fuzz” appearance common to early stage balding. At this stage, if the miniaturizing effects of DHT aren’t reversed or halted, the hair follicles may continue to shrink until they eventually vanish, resulting in complete baldness in the affected area.
Female Pattern Hair Loss
Symptoms in women are generally less severe than those experienced by men, appearing as an overall thinning of hairs across the top of the head, and the gradual loss of hairs down the center part-line of the scalp (Fig. 2, below). The reason women experience milder symptoms is due to hormonal differences. Women produce significantly lower amounts of testosterone than men (about 95% less on average). Women also produce lower levels about 60 percent less than men of the enzyme 5α-reductase that converts testosterone into DHT.
Additionally, women produce higher levels of another enzyme, aromatase (estrogen synthase), that converts testosterone into the female hormone, estradiol. While males also produce small amounts of aromatase, research has shown that aromatase levels in the frontal and rear scalp follicles in women are 4 to 6 times higher than in men, which is why women rarely lose hair in these areas.
Healthy Follicles, Healthy Hair
Hair follicles are among the most active and fastest growing structures in the body. Human hairs are produced by follicles, specialized organs that cover the entire body, with the exception of the palms and soles of the feet. Follicles are composed of three major structures – the dermal papilla, hair matrix, and hair shaft.
The dermal papilla, a pear-shaped structure located at the base of the hair follicle, is comprised of connective tissues and a capillary loop containing tiny blood vessels that provide the nutrients required for hair growth.
The papilla is surrounded by the “matrix”, a bulb-shaped collection of specialized epithelial cells that produce a protein, keratin, that actually forms the hair fiber (Hair Life Cycles). The matrix also contains melanocytes, specialized pigment cells that infuse the growing hair shaft with melanin, the compound that gives otherwise transparent hair its natural coloring.
Different types of melanin produce different colors – yellow, rust, brown, and black – that combine to produce a wide variety of hair colors, ranging from blond to brown to pitch-black. Red hair is the result of another type of coloring agent, the iron-containing pigment called trichosiderin.
Human Hair and Aging
Throughout youth and adolescence, human hair can grow, uninterrupted, for up to 7 years, with relatively short transition/ resting phases lasting only about 4 months. As a result, human hair is at its healthiest and most attractive throughout this phase of life.
Beginning at around age 35, changes begin to affect the density and overall appearance of hair. With each successive growth cycle, the amount of time and resources devoted to the growing phase are reduced, resulting in shorter, thinner hairs. Additionally, the amount of time spent in the resting phase lengthens, extending the period between when a hair falls out and when a new one grows back.
Changes in hair color also begin to appear as pigment-producing melanocytes gradually die out. Over time hairs slowly turn gray as hairs lose their luster and color before eventually becoming totally white.
Excessive Hair Loss
While gradual hair loss is a normal part of aging, excessive loss, or balding, is a significant issue for many people. Excessive hair loss can be roughly divided into two categories, temporary and permanent. Temporary hair loss is usually caused by excessive stress, poor diet, hormonal imbalance or endocrine dysfunction, and can often be reversed within six months to two years after eliminating the underlying cause(s). Permanent hair loss is caused by genetics and is considered irreversible.
Medical Options for Baldness
Two popular and widely used treatments for androgenic alopecia, Propecia and Rogaine, offer partial solutions by addressing hair loss in two different ways. Propecia halts hair loss by blocking production of the follicle damaging hormone, DHT, while Rogaine supports hair growth by increasing blood flow to the hair roots.
Propecia: Blocking DHT
Propecia (Finasteride) is an oral prescription drug first marketed (as Proscar) for the treatment of enlarged prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, or BPH). Elevated levels of DHT have been linked to BPH and prostate cancer. Proscar lowers DHT levels by preventing an enzyme, 5alpha-reductase, from converting testosterone into DHT.
Following its approval researchers noted that men taking Proscar were showing signs of hair regrowth, and in 1997 the FDA approved a lower dose version (Propecia) for the treatment of pattern baldness in men (Fig. 3). Propecia is highly effective at decreasing DHT concentrations in the blood (by up to 70 percent), and the scalp (by up to 60 percent) to reverse hair loss at the vertex (top of head) and anterior mid-scalp area. Unfortunately, there are side effects.
In addition to being in hair follicles, 5α-reductase is also abundant in the prostate and seminal vesicles, where it plays a vital role in the healthy development and maintenance of normal physiological functions. Reducing DHT in these organs has been linked to unwanted side effects in men, including decreased libido, sexual dysfunction, and a reduction of mature sperm count. Additionally, women cannot use Propecia, and Merck explicitly warns women who are or may be pregnant not to even handle crushed or broken Propecia tablets, since the active ingredient may cause abnormalities of a male baby’s sex organs.
Minoxidil: Stimulating Circulation
Minoxidil (Rogaine) was originally developed as an oral drug for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure) based on its ability to relax vascular smooth muscles and produce peripheral vasodilation. By directly improving circulation to the hair follicles, Minoxidil was found to stimulate resting hair follicles into new growth. Minoxidil works, in part, by increasing vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to promote hair growth and reactivate dormant hair follicles. However, when taken orally to restore hair, minoxidil was also found to have a number of side effects, including unwanted hair growth in women (hirsutism). Most of these side effects were averted by the introduction of a topical form of Rogaine for use as an external-use hair-restorer in 1988.
A New Hair Restoration Option
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hair loss is addressed by restoring balance to the “surface” and “root” causes of the issue. Now, after ten years of research, development, and clinical evaluation, an advanced, all-natural herbal supplement, PriaPlex®, has been shown to aid in halting age-related hair loss while promoting healthy hair growth.* A near-ideal solution for hair loss, PriaPlex (1) promotes new hair growth and extends the growing phase, while (2) lengthening the transitional phase, and (3) reducing the resting phase. Additionally, PriaPlex is 100 percent natural, free of side effects, and safe for long-term use.
By promoting healthy circulation in the tiniest blood vessels (microcapillaries) that supply nutrients and oxygen to the hair follicles, the proprietary PriaPlex formula supports thicker, healthier hair, improved skin tone and overall health and vitality.
An Unintentional Outcome
Serendipity (an unexpected, but fortunate, discovery) played a key role in the development of PriaPlex. In 2002 a leading medical lab in Taiwan had commissioned a team of top herbal researchers and veterinarians with developing a new treatment for an inflammatory skin disease that cause painful skin blisters and hair loss in household pets. After two years of research and development the team developed an herbal formula (identified as formula B203) that was just as effective as the antibiotics and steroids commonly used to treat afflicted animals, with the added benefit of being free of dangerous side effects that typically limit the use of the drugs in pets.
As the lab director reviewed the team’s final report his attention was drawn to a section that detailed a surprising observation. In addition to regrowing all their lost hair at a surprisingly rapid rate, all of the treated animals were maintaining thicker, healthier fur coats, even during warm periods when seasonal hair shedding was normal.
Intrigued by the finding, the lab next tested the formula on a group of dogs suffering from Alopecia X (Black Skin disease), an untreatable condition that causes hair loss on both sides of the body. After a few months the animals had completely recovered from the condition and regrown their previously lost hair.
Early Human Volunteers
Inspired by the formula’s ability to safely halt hair loss and restore hair growth in animal subjects, the researchers decided to see how the formula worked in humans experiencing abnormal hair loss. The results of a small trial with five volunteers were promising, and the lab launched a new program to optimize and refine the formula for long-term human use.
One of earliest trials with the new, revised formulas (identified as formula B401) involved a group of volunteers diagnosed with Alopecia areata, or “spot areata.” In early stages, Alopecia areata causes clumps of hair to fall out, leaving patients with one or more bare spots on the scalp. Alopecia areata occurs in young people at a rate of approximately 17 per 100,000 per year. And though the condition isn’t harmful, the psychological impact can be significant. Fortunately, Alopecia areata is generally temporary, and 80 percent of patients eventually recover.
In addition to the Alopecia areata seen in younger people, a more pervasive form appears in women (and occasionally men) over the age of 35. Also characterized by extensive hair loss, the condition usually clears up within one to two years, but the psychological stress of going bald makes this condition a profitable area for hair loss treatments centers.
The most common treatment for Alopecia areata involves monthly injections of corticosteroids, and twice-a-day external application of 5 percent minoxidil. Treatment generally requires 8-12 weeks before hair begins to regrow.
In one case a 50-year-old sales manager, Mr. W., had lost a large amount of hair before coming to the center. He had already been treated with steroids, but his hair loss was continuing to spread. After taking the formula for one month Mr. W. reported significant improvement in his condition, and within several months his hair loss was reversed.
In a second case, C., a 15-year-old student, arrived at the center with several bald spots across the back of her head. She had already completed a month of conventional treatments without any improvement and was emotionally stressed from continuing hair loss. After taking PriaPlex for several months her hair started to grow back.
PriaPlex and Male Pattern Hair Loss
Pleased with the results of the Alopecia areata trial, the lab next began testing PriaPlex on subjects with male pattern baldness. The results revealed that almost all men with stage 3 or 4 hair loss reacted exceptionally to PriaPlex in about six months, with fine hairs appearing on the top of the scalp that grew thicker and longer over time. Subjects with stage 4 to 5 hair loss (Fig. 1) were more likely to experience significant regrowth, however, improvements in stage 7 male-pattern baldness were only noticeable close up, with thinner hairs becoming thicker and longer, but with little change on the forehead. Fig. 7 documents the results of Mr. C, after 1.5 years of treatment with PriaPlex for his male pattern baldness.
Following the success of the male pattern baldness trials, the researchers began testing the formula on several women diagnosed with Alopecia totalis, a condition that causes lymphocytes to attack hair follicles during the growth phase of the hair cycle. In extreme cases, Alopecia totalis can result in the total loss of hair on the head, face, eyebrows and eyelashes within six months. Full recovery is rare, and even when treatment is effective, new hair growth in patients is often incomplete.
Ms. Y., was only 26-years-old when she was diagnosed with Alopecia totalis in July, 2006. At first she had attributed her hair loss to stress at work and school, but within two months all of her hair had dropped out. Conventional drug treatments weren’t working and by the time she entered the trial all that remained were a few strands of hair in the occipital region (Fig. 8). After taking PriaPlex for six months, new hairs began to appear, and after two years, Ms. Y. fully regrew her hair. Two years after beginning treatment she reported that her hair was still full and strong, with good volume and no further losses.
Restoring Hair Growth Cycles
Modifying hair follicles to reverse hair loss and restore growth is a complicated matter, especially considering the numerous cytokines, hormones and growth factors involved in controlling cell growth and tissue repair. One of these, fibroblast growth factor 3 (FGF- 5), has been shown to inhibit hair growth, causing hair follicles to shrink and degrade. Conversely, blocking FGF-5 has been shown to increase the growing (anagen) phase, leading to growth of extremely long hairs in many mammal species, including cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, sheep, and even elephants.( 1-7)
Another controlling factor, fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF-7) also increases hair length by promoting and facilitating hair cell regeneration. Additionally, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and endothelial cell growth factor (EGF) have all been shown to aid in lengthening the hair growth phase.
While growth factors play an important role in basic scientific research, few have been turned into useful applications and most treatments are limited to topical hair growth products i.e. creams, serums and shampoos that are applied to the scalp. Saw palmetto extract, for example, can inhibit 5α- reductase, but has no effect when taken orally, which is why it is commonly used in topical hair products. Adenosine, which has been shown to enhance FGF-7 levels in hair follicles, is another popular ingredient for topical hair tonics. Last but not least, numerous plant extracts are added to hair creams to block the effects of FGF-5. Nevertheless, these topical treatments are all restricted to addressing the “surface” issues involved in hair loss, instead of the “root” causes.
Increasing Hair Growth Factors
Studies commissioned by the Agriculture Department of Taiwan have shown that PriaPlex actively enhances levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in hair follicles (Fig. 9 and 10). PriaPlex was also shown to increase the number of active hair follicles (Fig. 11), while promoting faster growth and increased length of individual hairs (Fig. 12). Each of these benefits was listed in the patent application and contributed to its subsequent approval by the U.S. Patent Office, making PriaPlex the only oral, medicinal herbal formulation to be granted a U.S. patent for reducing hair loss and supporting healthy hair growth.
U.S. Patent Granted for Oral, All-Natural Herbal Hair Formula
In 2010 the United States Patent office approved Pat. Number: U.S. 7,838,048 subject: Medical herb composition (identified in the patent application as compound B401) for inhibiting shedding of a mammal’s hair and method for preparing the same). Why is this so significant? Up until 2010 the U.S. Patent Office has granted just 64 U.S. patents for inventions addressing human hair loss. Of these, 59 are for products limited exclusively to external (topical) use. And while the remaining five patents cover products intended for internal use, they contain active ingredients that are not recommended for long-term use.
PriaPlex is the first oral, all-natural herbal formulation to be granted a U.S. patent for reducing hair loss and supporting healthy hair growth. Most importantly, because the patent covers commonly used herbal ingredients, the formulation is safe for long-term use by both men and women.
After 10 years of clinical evaluation, PriaPlex offers an effective approach to both forms of hair loss by reducing, inhibiting, and delaying the appearance of balding with a continuous hair maintenance program that effectively addresses the circulatory and growth factor imbalances that causes hair follicles to miniaturize and eventually die out.
Numerous clinical cases have shown that PriaPlex, if used uninterruptedly and in sufficient amount, can stop abnormal hair loss within four to eight weeks. New hairs generally begin to appear on the scalp after three to six months. Additionally, original hair color may begin to appear six months later. And because PriaPlex is comprised of essence herbs traditionally used to support healthy endocrine, hormone, and cardiac functions the formula is safe for long-term use by both men and women.