Significance: Male and female pattern hair loss are common, chronic dermatologic disorders with limited therapeutic options. In recent years, a number of commercial devices using low-level laser therapy have been promoted, but there have been little peer-reviewed data on their efficacy. Objective: To determine whether treatment with a low-level laser device, the US FDA-cleared HairMax Lasercomb®, increases terminal hair density in both men and women with pattern hair loss. Methods: Randomized, sham device-controlled, double-blind clinical trials were conducted at multiple institutional and private practices. A total of 146 male and 188 female subjects with pattern hair loss were screened. A total of 128 male and 141 female subjects were randomized to receive either a lasercomb (one of three models) or a sham device in concealed sealed packets, and were treated on the whole scalp three times a week for 26 weeks. Terminal hair density of the target area was evaluated at baseline and at 16- and 26-week follow-ups, and analyzed to determine whether the hypothesis formulated prior to data collection, that lasercomb treatment would increase terminal hair density, was correct. The site investigators and the subjects remained blinded to the type of device they dispensed/received throughout the study. The evaluator of masked digital photographs was blinded to which trial arm the subject belonged. Results: Seventy-eight, 63, 49, and 79 subjects were randomized in four trials of 9-beam lasercomb treatment in female subjects, 12-beam lasercomb treatment in female subjects, 7-beam lasercomb treatment in male subjects, and 9- and 12-beam lasercomb treatment in male subjects, compared with the sham device, respectively. Nineteen female and 25 male subjects were lost to follow-up. Among the remaining 122 female and 103 male subjects in the efficacy analysis, the mean terminal hair count at 26 weeks increased from baseline by 20.2, 20.6, 18.4, 20.9, and 25.7 per cm2 in 9-beam lasercomb-treated female subjects, 12-beam lasercomb-treated female subjects, 7-beam lasercomb-treated male subjects, and 9- and 12-beam lasercomb-treated male subjects, respectively, compared with 2.8 (p < 0.0001), 3.0 (p < 0.0001), 1.6 (p = 0.0017), 9.4 (p = 0.0249), and 9.4 (p = 0.0028) in sham-treated subjects (95 % confidence interval). The increase in terminal hair density was independent of the age and sex of the subject and the lasercomb model. Additionally, a higher percentage of lasercomb-treated subjects reported overall improvement of hair loss condition and thickness and fullness of hair in self-assessment, compared with sham-treated subjects. No serious adverse events were reported in any subject receiving the lasercomb in any of the four trials. Conclusions and relevance: We observed a statistically significant difference in the increase in terminal hair density between lasercomb- and sham-treated subjects. No serious adverse events were reported. Our results suggest that low-level laser treatment may be an effective option to treat pattern hair loss in both men and women. Additional studies should be considered to determine the long-term effects of low-level laser treatment on hair growth and maintenance, and to optimize laser modality.
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Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank Zoe Draelos, MD (Dermatology Consulting Services, High Point), David Goldberg, MD (Skin Laser and Surgery Specialist, Hillsborough, NJ, USA; Hackensack, NJ, USA), Michael Jarratt, MD (DermaResearch, Inc., Austin, TX, USA), Abe Marcadis, MD (Palm Beach Research Center, West Palm Beach, FL, USA), and Jose Mendez, DO (International Dermatology Research, Inc., Miami, FL, USA) for their participation. Statistical analyses were contracted to Stat-Tech Services, LLC (Chapel Hill, NC, USA). Lexington International, LLC partially funded the study, and provided the treatment and sham devices and equipment (including the digital imaging system). M.R. Hamblin has received honorarium/consulting fees, and L.A. Schachner has received fees for participation from Lexington International, LLC. M. Hordinsky has received, on behalf of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota, a grant to conduct part of this study. J.J. Jimenez, T.C. Wikramanayake, W.F. Bergfeld, and J.G. Hickman have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to this study. M.R. Hamblin was supported by a NIH grant R01AI050875. The authors have full control of all primary data, and agree to allow the journal to review their data if requested.