Stem Cells: A Rising Solution to Hair Loss
It can be frustrating to hear about research that you might benefit from but is still in the “promising” stage. Such is the case with stem cell research related to hair loss. Yet, much progress has been and continues to be made. The apparent solution to the mystery of hair loss seems to be hiding in our scalp. Hair follicles may be dormant for extended periods of time. Even after hair loss, follicles that are dormant retain viable stem cells that can, with the right kind of influence, get hair follicles producing again.
Stem cells are neutral (or pluripotent), meaning they can transform into any of the body’s over 200 types of cells. Throughout life, they keep their ability to divide and become various cells. If stem cells in dormant hair follicles can be reactivated, it is believed new hair can grow. Our transformable stem cells, which contain the template for all cells, start the creation process by producing “progenitor” cells. Progenitor cells can only change into a select few cell types. For those with male or female pattern hair loss, follicle stem cells have stopped producing progenitor (replacement) cells for those follicles which are dormant.
Follicle Stem Cells Cause Hair Growth
In 2004, researchers at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine thought that stem cells inside the bulge of a follicle were the instigators of hair growth. To prove this, they isolated some follicle stem cells and transplanted them into the skin of mice. The procedure produced new hair growth within four weeks.
The researchers looked forward to isolating stem cells taken from the adult human scalp and replanting them in other areas, hoping to produce similar results. They estimated another ten years before people would be able to heal resulting from the use of stem cell transplantation.
“Fat derived” Stem Cells Tell Follicle Stem Cells What to Do
Fast forward to 2011. Though researchers had known stem cells in hair follicles need a signal from the skin to produce hair, where exactly the signal originated was unknown. Then, in studies at Yale University, researchers located stem cells in the fatty layer of human skin that send out molecular messages prompting hair growth.
Those who have male or female pattern hair loss still have a reserve of live stem cells in their dormant roots, but the roots need a molecular jolt to resume hair growth. The Yale researchers are hoping to get the “fat” stem cells to transmit “hair growth” signals to the stem cells that are dormant inside unproductive follicles.
In Summary . . .
- Researchers stimulate fatty tissue stem cells.
- Fatty tissue stem cells transmit the message “grow hair!”
- Dormant follicle stem cells receive the message, “grow hair!”
- Follicle stem cells wake up.
- Follicle stem cells get busy creating progenitor cells.
- Progenitor cells become hair producing cells.
- Hair starts growing again.
With these exciting new advances in medical research, those of us who suffer from hair loss can continue to have hope. The direction that this research is headed suggests that the possibility exists to cure male and female pattern baldness.