Hair Loss News


Hair Loss News Archives

December 2013

Skin molecules that cause baldness, unwanted hair identified as U.S. researchers discover ways to disrupt both processes

The cure for baldness may be within reach, as researchers say that by removing a protein pathway inhibitor, they were able to reactivate hair follicles. Also, by adding in the inhibitor, they were able to stop hair growth. The research may also assist in the treatment of skin tumours.

It turns out that when it comes to growing hair that’s stopped growing, and stopping hair from growing where people don’t want it, the same molecules in the human body are at play, according to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Researchers writing in the journal Cell Stem Cell this month say that balding is caused by the protein inhibitor Dkk1, which stops the intracellular Wnt/β-catenin pathway from functioning properly. They further found that stem cells for dormant hair follicles are still maintained after balding begins. When Dkk1 is removed, the Wnt/β-catenin pathway resumes normal function, stem cells were activated, and hair growth is restored.

Another important point in the study was when researchers unexpectedly discovered that the hair-creating cell pathway is also normally active in non-hairy regions, such as on the palms of hands, soles of feet and the tongue, as well as between hair follicles on the surface of the skin. This finding is consistent with previous results showing that removing β-catenin can prevent the growth of skin tumours.

“While more research is needed to improve our understanding of this pathway, our results suggest that therapeutics capable of decreasing levels of Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the skin could potentially be used to block growth of unwanted hair, and/or to treat certain skin tumours,” said senior author Sarah Millar, PhD, professor in the departments of Dermatology and of Cell and Developmental Biology. “Conversely, if delivered in a limited, safe and controlled way, agents that activate Wnt signalling might be used to promote hair growth in dormant hair follicles in conditions such as male pattern baldness.”