Biology

Key mechanism behind baldness and going gray discovered

Key mechanism behind baldness ...
Researchers have discovered the cells responsible for hair growth, and the mechanism behind hair turning gray
Researchers have discovered the cells responsible for hair growth, and the mechanism behind hair turning gray
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Researchers have discovered the cells responsible for hair growth, and the mechanism behind hair turning gray
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Researchers have discovered the cells responsible for hair growth, and the mechanism behind hair turning gray

While various snake-oil salesmen claim to offer products that can cure baldness, science hasn't been able to crack the mystery of how to stimulate hair regrowth. But a real baldness cure could be a step closer thanks to a team of scientists who have uncovered the cells that give rise to hair growth and also the genetic triggers behind hair turning gray.

As with many fascinating scientific breakthroughs, this one came by accident, with a team of dermatology researchers at UT Southwestern inadvertently making the discovery while investigating a rare genetic form of cancer.

"Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair," explains Dr Lu Le. "

The researchers were investigating a protein called KROX20, and they discovered that for skin cells to become a hair shaft they need to also produce that specific protein. When the KROX20-producing cells were deleted in mice, no hair grew.

The team also discovered a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) is essential for hair pigmentation. In mice models the team deleted the SCF gene from hair-producing cells and saw the animals' hair turn white.

The future for this research is to try to understand how production of the KROX20 protein is interrupted as people age, as well as understanding what causes the SCF gene to stop working and bring on gray hair. The research offers an interesting insight into the triggers of aging, but on a more pragmatic level it may serve up a path to battling baldness.

"With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems," Dr Le promisingly noted.

Source: UT Southwestern

8 comments
DavidRogerBrown
Whoever invents a "cure" for male baldness will be the richest person on earth.
VTBob
There already is a baldness cure in the form of Finasteride pills. Avodart will probably work also, it should be a generic shortly. The trade name of Finasteride is Propecia. Yes, there was an article here about nasty side effects from it that may continue after you stop using it. I take it to help reduce the size of my prostate. The lovely side effect is that I now have hair back on my head. I've gone from bald to balding. I have no idea if the hair will thicken up properly, but I doubt that I'll stop using Finasteride. My hair would fall out and my prostate would grow too big again. You see "Hypertrophied prostates" and baldness are caused by the same thing. The amusing thing is that even the urologist's illustrated materials do not uniformly show bald men with prostate troubles.
guzmanchinky
So any potential cures for hairloss just around the corner. Dangit. :)
Jimjam
CRISPR can now be used to make epigenomic rather than genomic alterations to turn genes on and off, rather than to just delete or edit them. It was recently used by the University of Utah to turn off inflammatory genes. https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2017/04/using-crispr-to-suppress-cytokine-receptors-and-reduce-inflammation/ https://unews.utah.edu/pain-in-the-neck/ They are planning to use it for back pain, but given how cheap and easy it is now getting to use and make, I wonder how long it will be before someone is offering up a topical CRISPR lotion to turn KROX20 genes back on in the skin?
PhilDor
Four months ago I started taking a 'secret' aboriginal tea made from the bark of a bush here in the Kimberley of Western Australia as I had noticed an immediate beneficial reaction on my prostate problems, but now my white hair is slowly turning back to it's original color! If this keeps going on, I will look like 20 years ago within the next 6 months. Can somebody explains what is happening here?
AronDavidJamesMiles
So while "investigating a rare genetic form of cancer," they found this out accidentally and just gave up on the cancer research? While being bald may suck, I think you would be hard pressed to find a story of someone dying because of it. I only say that because there was no mention of them continuing the research elsewhere or handing it off.
JimFox
I'd like to get rid of ALL my body hair! Bloody stuff gets everywhere.
Tom Swift
so they say hair loss is in your genes well they're wrong...I got hair in my genes, I need it on my head!