Following some new research on stem cells, and their relationship with androgenetic alopecia (genetic hair loss), an article on stem cells and the way they organize hair growth was published in the April 29th issue of the journal Science.
At issue is not the conversion of hair follicle stem cells into the progenitor cells that stimulate hair growth, as with the prior research, but the ways in which large numbers of stem cells coordinate the cycle of hair growth over thousands of hair follicles. How do all of those hair follicle stem cells know when to grow hair, and how do they know what their “neighbor” hair follicles are doing?
The researchers studied hair growth patterns in rabbits and mice and discovered that certain types of molecules, which were previously known to act as a signaling mechanism for stem cells in maintaining an individual hair follicle’s growth cycle, were also important in enabling large groups of stem cells to coordinate their activity.
The scientists found that hair stem cells coordinate their regeneration with each other with the aid of a pair of molecular activator WNT and inhibitor BMP. When WNT and BMP signals are used repetitively among a population of thousands of hair follicles across the entire skin surface, complex regenerative hair growth behavior emerges via the process of self-organization.
Perhaps more importantly, they found that the stem cell communication pathway present in rabbits and mice is far more robust than in men and women.
“When each human hair follicle wants to regenerate, it can only count on itself; it’s not getting help from other follicles,” Chuong said. “But when a rabbit hair follicle regenerates, it can count on two inputs: its own activation, and the activation signal from its neighbors. Rabbits have a very active hair growth, and that is essential for their survival in the wild.”
The article suggests that if there was a way to manage that process in humans, or “turn back on” the stem cell communication process in human hair follicles, then a treatment could be developed which would substantially increase the number of hair follicles that produce healthy hair.
Read a summary of this new research at ScienceDaily.com.
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