Saturday, June 16, 2007

New Hope For Baldness Treatment: Hair Follicles Created For First Time In Mouse Study

At last! Medical science addresses a problem of great concern to (some) men under 50.

New Hope For Baldness Treatment: Hair Follicles Created For First Time In Mouse Study
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that hair follicles in adult mice regenerate by re-awakening genes once active only in developing embryos. These findings provide unequivocal evidence for the first time that, like other animals such as newts and salamanders, mammals have the power to regenerate. A better understanding of this process could lead to novel treatments for hair loss, other skin and hair disorders, and wounds.

Though tested so far only in mice, it's intersting that the technique involves recruiting the body's own stem cells – but not cells that are direct precursors of hair follicles. This means that other components of skin might be regenerated as well:
In this study, researchers found that wound healing in a mouse model created an "embryonic window" of opportunity. Dormant embryonic molecular pathways were awakened, sending stem cells to the area of injury. Unexpectedly, the regenerated hair follicles originated from non-hair-follicle stem cells.

"We've found that we can influence wound healing with wnts or other proteins that allow the skin to heal in a way that has less scarring and includes all the normal structures of the skin, such as hair follicles and oil glands, rather than just a scar," explains Cotsarelis.

Even more interesting, the technique involves an important family of protein known as "Wnt":
By introducing more wnt proteins to the wound, the researchers found that they could take advantage of the embryonic genes to promote hair-follicle growth, thus making skin regenerate instead of just repair. Conversely by blocking wnt proteins, they also found that they could stop the production of hair follicles in healed skin.

For a lot more on the Wnt signaling pathway, see here.

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