Is THIS the cure for baldness?

Researchers discover protein at the root of hair loss ... and believe it can be manipulated to regrow a lost head of hair
By Luke Andrews | DailyMail.com |

THE DAILY MAIL - A research team believes that they may have found a cure for baldness by preventing chemical buildups that can cause it to occur in the first place — and even use it to regenerate a person's hair after it is lost.

Modelling at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), found that when the chemical is in high concentrations it kills hair follicles. But that when the levels are 'just right' it causes them to grow new hairs.

The protein at the center to their discovery is TGF-beta, which not only controls the growth of a follicle but can also lead to its death. The UCR research team believes that its levels can be 'controlled' to stop hair loss from happening.

Around 40 million Americans are bald and, while many just accept it as a part of aging, the new findings suggest that their may be a way to stop the shedding of hair later in life.

Dr. Qixuan Wang, the mathematical biologist at UCR who led the paper, said her research moved scientists one step closer to 'controlling' mechanisms causing baldness.

Modeling performed by the team found high concentrations of TGF-beta — naturally found in the follicles — can be toxic to them and lead to their death, and eventual falling out.

Baldness may be triggered by so much of a chemical building up in hair follicles that they die, the team says.

When 'just right' levels of the protein was reached in the follicles cells were triggered to generate new hairs.

Cells in hair follicles periodically die, which causes the hair to fall out — a process that happens about 100 times a day.

But each also contains stem cells, that can generate new hair-making cells to ensure the lost strand is regrown.

In baldness, however, this process is shut off — with Wang and co-author Dr. Katherine Dinh arguing this is down to the chemical TGF-beta.

'Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir. When the surviving cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make a new cell and develop into a new follicle,' Wang said.

'TGF-beta has two opposite roles in this. It helps activate some hair follicle cells to produce new life, and later, it helps orchestrate apoptosis, the process of cell death.'

'Our new research gets us closer to understanding stem cell behavior, so that we can control it and promote wound healing,' she added.

TGF-beta is a chemical that normally stimulates growth which is secreted by many cells across the body, including white blood cells.

In the research, scientists used datasets based on testing done on the skin's surface that revealed the concentration of different chemicals.

Baldness — which can afflict both men and women — is often inherited in genes.

But it can also be caused by the body starting to attack its own hair follicles — in a condition known as alopecia areata — which robs people of their hair within weeks.

Stress and wearing extensions that pull on hair have also been implicated in hair loss.

Reviewing the study Dr. Anthony Oro, a dermatologist at Stanford Health Care in California, said any conclusions about the role of TGF-beta based on it were 'premature'.

'TGF-Beta plays a complex role in normal hair growth, so its nomination is not surprising.

'Several issues limit the study's impact. First, the study uses existing data mostly in mouse hair growth, and we know that mouse and human hair growth regulation is quite different.

'Second, the study uses normal hair cycling, not male baldness, which are both very different so the conclusions from one do not necessarily apply to the other.

'Lastly, the study does not validate any of its findings in patients, so conclusions about TGF-Beta's role in baldness are premature.'

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