February 22nd, 2015
Hair loss will affect nearly all of us, if we live long enough. About 73 percent of men and 57 percent of women over the age of 80 will have some kind of baldness. On the younger end of the spectrum, about 25 percent of men start going bald by age 30.
And the cures just seem to be everywhere. A click on a computer or smartphone, 10 minutes in front of a television, or a glance at a newspaper will reveal the latest idea for eliminating baldness. Too bad the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only two drugs approved for baldness. And, while dermatologists and others point to several possible links to baldness (including everything from heredity to hair clips to iron deficient diets), the root cause (sorry) of baldness remains unknown.
But a research team at the University of Pennsylvania reported in Nature Medicine that they found a molecular pathway that stimulated hair follicle growth to a degree that could be therapeutic for baldness. The researchers found that a growth factor called Fgf9, which plays an important role in wound healing, stimulated these hair follicles in mice after an injury (see photo for a human hair follicle, left). In mice, the specific immune cell that Fgf9 is found in large quantities—and so is new hair after an injury. In humans, however, injuries result in scarring and no hair follicle growth, and the cell that produces Fgf9 is in short supply.
So, the scientists suggest, what if you could overexpress the various genes that ultimately produce Fgf9 in humans? If Fgf9 were produced in greater quantities in humans, it could stimulate the regeneration of hair follicles. Could this make us hairier? And does this process only work after an injury? Only further studies and the all-important clinical trial will tell.
Source: University of Pennsylvania
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr
Gay D, Kwon O, Zhang Z, Spata M, Plikus MV, Holler PD, Ito M, Yang Z, Treffeisen E, Kim CD, Nace A, Zhang X, Baratono S, Wang F, Ornitz DM, Millar SE, & Cotsarelis G (2013). Fgf9 from dermal γδ T cells induces hair follicle neogenesis after wounding. Nature medicine PMID: 23727932
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