The way animals shed and grow their fur coats at certain times of the year could lead to a new treatment for male pattern baldness.
Researchers have been investigating the way that animal hair growth is not only stimulated by hormones in the layer of skin called the dermis, but also by signals coming from elsewhere in the body.
The lead study author of the research, Dr. Cheng-Ming Chuong, a professor at the University of Southern California, says that these signals are triggered by the changing seasons and this is why some animals lose and gain coats of hair at different times of the year.
After spending time studying the way animals grow and shed their winter coats in particular, it appears that researchers are on the brink of creating a new baldness treatment.
Dr Cheng-Ming Chuong said that it may be possible for scientists to harness this ability that animals naturally have, in stimulating new growth, to treating human baldness.
“Treatments before focused on the hair-follicle stem cell but in animals it is not only listening to the voice in the stem cell, but also the voice from outside. If this could be applied to humans then a new treatment and a cure for baldness may be available.” The new approach would see the environment around the follicle changing and not concentrating on the stem cells within it. This could create the outside signals present in animals but long since lost in humans.
Dr Chuong told MyHealthNewsDaily, “This extra follicle-affecting factor has disappeared during human evolution. To deal with the hair growth, you not only try to help the stem cell, but you can improve the soil, like – You put a tulip bulb in a nicer soil, you will grow a nicer hair.
At present, the only two to have been clinically proven to slow down hair loss and prevent a bald patch worsening are the drug finasteride and a lotion called Minoxidil. Hair can be replaced with painful and expensive surgical hair transplants, where follicles are removed from an area of dense hair on the head and transplanted to the bald patch. The procedure to cover just a small patch costs £30,000, which is out of the reach of most people.”
It is thought that once a hair folicle is in its ‘resting phase’ of hair growth, there is little you can do to trigger it growing again. But with this new research, if attempts to stimulate growth within the hair follicle have failed, it makes sense to try to invigorate the environment around the follicle.
Researchers at UC Irvine agree. Mikhail Geyfman, a doctoral student at UC Irvine and one of the paper’s authors states, “The fat cells outside the hair follicles are also extremely important. There are a number of things going on around the follicle that are affecting the follicle.”
While a hair follice is in its resting phase, a number of processes are still occurring, including cleaning up the cells that remain from the dead hair and repairing the DNA of the stem cell the hair grows from, according to the paper.
Geyfman said the researchers discovered this by observing increased levels of immune activity around these hair follicles. Understanding these processes, he said, will likely provide a key to coaxing these hairs to regrow.
“I think it will have a huge impact on (baldness) treatments, and how physicians look at hair treatments in humans. They will actually start looking at the fat.” he said. If this new treatment were ever to work, it would be most beneficial to men who lose their hair at the age of 50 and over and could also help women who lose their hair due to the menopause or other reasons.