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04 Mar 2016 273 Comments

Reason For Hair Baldness Is Here: Shrinking Stem Cell

It is a known fact that hair gradually recedes and thins out as we age. Over the years, people tend to lose their thick locks and have bald spots or thinning of hair but what triggers the hair loss was uncertain all this time. Recently, Japanese scientists found that the errors in DNA accumulated over the years disrupt the stem cell repair mechanism and thereby cause baldness.

What happens to the hair as we age?

The stem cells present in the scalp regenerate in a regular cycle; when there is hair damage, they begin the repair cycle and produce hair forming follicle cells and when there is no need for new hair formation, they enter resting phase. This on and off cycle of activity is unique compared to other stem cells in the body.

The hair baldness is associated with the shrinking of these stem cells, which happens as below:

  1. Mammals that have longer lifespan lose hair/fur as they age. The problem of hair loss due to ageing is related to errors picked up by the DNA over the years. Ageing builds up a number of errors in the DNA.
  2. These accumulated errors are responsible for the destruction of a specific collagen protein called Collagen 17A1.
  3. As the collagen protein is destroyed, it causes the stem cells to switch their normal cycle. Instead of forming follicle cells, they mature into skin cells.
  4. The newly formed skin cells move out of the follicle and reach the scalp. These cells are then shed in the normal turnover of skin.
  5. As they move out of the follicle, they are not replaced by new cells. Thus, the follicles begin to shrink and eventually become a part of the surrounding scalp.
  6. This results in baldness.

Stem Cell Research On Baldness

Japanese scientists at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University conducted a research on aged mice to understand the mechanism of hair loss and how stem cell shrinking contributes to this thinning of hair. The study finding was published in the journal, Science.

First they examined the cycle of regeneration in mice and found the above mechanism of baldness in animal model. To see, if the same mechanism is found in humans, they analyzed the scalp of women who aged between 22 and 70 years. The research showed that women over 50 years had smaller hair follicles with lower levels of collagen protein. The protein, Collagen 17A1 could be a new target for treating hair loss in humans.

How To Avoid Hair Loss?

Another study found an interesting approach to save the stem cells present in the scalp. The researchers at the University of Colorado found how the hair follicle stem cells go to dormant phase in the regeneration cycle. A gene called FoxC1 is responsible for keeping the stem cells in dormant phase. By deleting this gene, the hair forming stem cells can stay permanently active. The researchers believe that if we interfere with the gene, it is possible to shorten the dormant state and induce follicle cell formation. This could be a possible treatment strategy for baldness in future.








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