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Stem Cells Could Hold the Key to Make Hair Grow Again


The research, led by scientists Heather Christofk and William Lowry, may lead to new drugs that could promote hair growth. This research could help for those who suffer from baldness or alopecia, which is hair loss associated with such factors as hormonal imbalance, stress, ageing or chemotherapy treatment.

In the research, conducted on mice, key molecular events involved in growing hair were uncovered and has been published in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. This offers great insights into potentially paving the way for hair growth stimulation in patients.

Researchers examined the growth of hair through follicles from the skin ­­and how they produce hair by using so-called organoids, clusters of stem cells grown in vitro that can turn into an organ-like structure. ­­

The team identified two drugs that, when applied to the skin of mice, influenced hair follicle stem cells to activate to promote hair growth.

Hair follicle stem cells are long-lived cells in the hair follicle; they are present in the skin and produce hair throughout a person’s lifetime. They are “quiescent” meaning they are normally inactive, but they quickly activate during a new hair cycle, which is when new hair growth occurs. The quiescence of hair follicle stem cells is regulated by many factors. In certain cases, they fail to activate, which is what causes hair loss.

“Through this study, we gained a lot of interesting insight into new ways to activate stem cells,” said Aimee Flores, a predoctoral trainee in Lowry’s lab and first author of the study. “The idea of using drugs to stimulate hair growth through hair follicle stem cells is very promising given how many millions of people, both men and women, deal with hair loss. I think we’ve only just begun to understand the critical role metabolism plays in hair growth and stem cells in general; I’m looking forward to the potential application of these new findings for hair loss and beyond.”