Scientists continue to make new developments in hair loss, why it occurs and possible ways to restart hair growth after it has stopped. In 2011, an article was published in Cell journal describing a new development Yale researchers have made with stem cell research. Researchers found that stem cells can trigger hair growth, an important new insight that may lead to eventual treatments for baldness and hair loss.
The researchers found stem cells in the fatty layer of the skin and discovered molecular signals from these stem cells were important in triggering hair growth in mice. The senior author of the paper, Valeria Horsley, said, “If we can get these fat cells in the skin to talk to the dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again.”
Men with male pattern baldness, and women who are experiencing baldness, still have stem cells in the roots of the follicles, although they seem to have lost their ability to regenerate hair. Until know, scientists had no idea what signal these follicle stem cells needed to grow hair again.
The team of researchers also noticed that when hair dies, the fat in the scalp shrinks. When hair begins to grow again, this thick layer of fat expands, a process that’s referred to as adipogenesis. The type of stem cell that creates new fat cells, called adipose precursor cells, was necessary to restart hair growth in the mice. Researchers also discovered these cells produce platelet derived growth factors, or PDGF molecules, which are also required to grow hair.
The lab led by Horsley is now working to find other signals produced by these stem cells and find out what kind of role they play in regulating and controlling hair growth. The Yale team is also working to find if these same signals are necessary for human hair growth. This important study is leading the way for new developments in hair loss treatments and will hopefully have human applications in the near future.
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program. The senior author, Valerie Horsley, is an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale. Other Yale authors of the study include: lead author Eric Festa, Ryan Berry, Jackie Fretz, Barbara Schmidt, Mark Horowitz and Matthew Rodeheffer.