Skin cells may harbour baldness cure
LONDON: Here’s a bit of good news for people on the path towards turning bald – boffins have found that the skin may have the capability to regenerate lost hair follicles from within.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia led by George Cotsarelis now believe that this discovery could yield better treatments for baldness or abnormal hair growth.
In the study on a mouse model, the researchers found that when skin is wounded, epidermal cells can respond by assuming the properties of stem cells that generate hair follicles and grow new hair.
As a part of the research the boffins separated patches of skin from the rodents and monitored the wounds as they healed during the following weeks. They found that cells that had not initially been associated with hair follicles began to express genes found in the stem cells that give rise to follicles during development.
The researchers also reported that hair growth took place regardless of the mouse''s age, and also noted that the new hairs did not contain pigment. It was previously thought that hair follicles couldn’t be re-grown after a person reaches adulthood.
While the process happened naturally after wounding, the boffins found that they could also speed up the effect by using mice that had been genetically engineered to produce higher levels of proteins that activate the genetic pathway underpinning the transformation to follicle stem cells.
Cotsarelis and his colleagues now hope to mimic this for human skin. They are hopeful that the treatment that will be developed will be similar to the ''dermabrasion'' used to treat skin scarred by teenage acne.
''Dermabrasion'' is a process that uses gentle damage to encourage wound-healing processes — combined with a topical cream to activate the genetic pathway.