Stem cell therapy for baldness

Researchers have found that molecular signals from stem cells within the skin's fatty layer trigger hair growth in mice. This could mean new treatments for baldness in people.

“If we can get these fat cells in the skin to talk to the dormant stem cells at the base of the hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again,” senior study author Valerie Horsley, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, said. Details of the discovery appear in the Sept. 2 issue of the journal Cell.

The report explains that these stem cells are still present in the hair follicle roots of men with male pattern baldness, but the cells lose the ability to spur hair growth. It's been known that these follicle stem cells require signals from within the skin to grow hair, but until now, the source of those signals was unknown.

When hair dies, there's shrinkage of the layer of fat in the scalp that comprises most of the skin's thickness. When hair growth begins, the fat layer expands, the Yale team explained.

They found that hair regeneration in mice requires a type of stem cell (adipose precursor cells) involved in the creation of new skin fat cells. They also found that these cells produce molecules (platelet-derived growth factors) that are necessary to produce hair growth. In fact they noted a four-fold increase in the number of precursor fat cells in the skin around a hair follicle when it started to grow. In injecting the growth factors in addition could kick start the follicles to grow hair in 86% of the follicles.

Scientists are trying to determine whether the signals that promote hair growth in mice are the same needed to produce hair growth in humans.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

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Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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