Hair Loss Researched At Molecular Level By Scientists, Stem Cells Found To Affect Hair Growth

Grishma Giri - Author

Feb. 17 2016, Updated 10:05 a.m. ET

A research team from Japan and the Netherlands under Hiroyuki Matsumura have discovered that DNA damage in stem cells in the hair follicles change them to skin cells, thereby leaving the scalp. Published in Science, the findings are believed to be important in developing new treatments for hair loss and aging.

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Similarly, other research done by Li Wang and a team in the U.S. analyzed follicle growth to measure volume to the research governing hair growth.

The research studies carried out by both sides analyzed the skin of mice at 18 months, a time at which the hair loss started, and discovered lesser follicles that are smaller and less thick than those in younger skin.

The finding indicates that the change in the follicles is what might be related with hair loss, which led the researchers to delve more into investigating the stem cells. A deeper research into the key genes found in the stem cells concluded that DNA damage to the stem cells is what has been causing change to the follicles.

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The gene COL17AL was identified as especially important to regulating hair follicle stem cells, as mice which were engineered to lack the gene also had none of the follicle-generating cells, reports the Guardian.

The layer of follicles are often damaged by the presence of lice and excess use of unnatural oils, conditioners, and moisturizers. In order to protect the scalp and maintain the the right moisture, several studies, including the one in Journal of Cosmetic Science, recommends using coconut oil for hair loss. Similarly, a new medical treatment without surgery is what had been posited to be a breakthrough previously.

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The study involved wild-type mice models, and it was found that HFSC’s cause DNA damage during the renewal process of repetitive hair cycles. This leads to the breakdown of type XVII collagen (COL17A1), which is crucial for the maintenance of HFSCs.

And while athletic hairstyles are a popular trend in today’s fashion scene, the use of artificial colors and pigments in hair reduces the strength of the roots. This further leads to hair loss and other skin related problems directly associated with hair growth.

Another study identifies a control gene — Foxc1 — which is used by the follicle stem cells to start the hair growth during the adult hair cycle. The stem cells pass through different phases of activation to maintain the required stem cells and produce new hair follicles.

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“In vivo stem cell fate tracing of HFSCs revealed the critical role of HFSCs in the induction of aging-associated hair thinning. We identified a distinct organ aging program that is driven by transepidermal elimination of aged HFSCs through their depletion of COL17A1 via DNA damage–induced protease expression and terminal epidermal differentiation. The dynamic HF aging program is a good model of organ and tissue shrinkage and functional decline commonly seen in many different organs during aging. This paradigm could potentially open new avenues for the development of anti-aging strategies to prevent and treat aging-associated diseases.”

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The same research was then applied to the human scalp skin of women at ages ranging from 22- to 70-years-old. The research found out that human female scalps between age group 55 to 70 years have significantly more miniaturized hair follicles than those of aged 35- to 45-years-old.

The findings show that the initial hair follicle ageing is caused by DNA damage leading to disappearing from the skin, regardless of the sex. It is also noted that hair follicle aging is related to intrinsic genomic instability, leading to cases of genetic disorders involving progeria. Indeed, this dynamic hair follicle aging program is a good model of how different organs and tissue miniaturize and become less functional with age, the authors wrote.

[Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows]


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