Stem Cell Research Could Lead To A Cure For Baldness, And More
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Regenerative medicine research conducted throughout this year at the University of Southern California (USC) could lead to new ways to counter baldness and receding hairlines using stem cells.
USC Assistant Professor of Pathology Dr. Krzysztof Kobielak and his colleagues have published a trio of papers in the journals Stem Cells and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) describing some of the biological factors responsible for when hair starts growing, when it stops, and when it falls out.
According to USC, the three studies focused on stem cells that are located in adult hair follicles. Those cells, known as hfSCs, can regenerate both hair follicles and skin, and are governed by bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and the Wnt signaling pathways – groups of molecules that work together in order to control the cycles of hair growth and other cellular functions.
“The most recent paper, published in the journal Stem Cells in November 2013, focuses on how the gene Wnt7b activates hair growth. Without Wnt7b, hair is much shorter,” the team said. Kobielak’s team originally proposed Wnt7b’s role in a study published this January in PNAS. That paper identified a complex network of genes, including the Wnt and BMP signaling pathways, which controls the cycles of hair growth.
Reduced BMP signaling and increased Wnt signaling activate hair growth, while increased BMP signaling and decreased Wnt signaling keeps the hfSCs in a resting state, the researchers explained. The third paper, published in Stem Cells in September, sheds new light on the BMP signaling pathway. It looked at the function of the proteins Smad1 and Smad 5, which send and receive signals that regulate hair-related stem cells during growth periods.
“Collectively, these new discoveries advance basic science and, more importantly, might translate into novel therapeutics for various human diseases,” Kobielak explained. “Since BMP signaling has a key regulatory role in maintaining the stability of different types of adult stem cell populations, the implication for future therapies might be potentially much broader than baldness – and could include skin regeneration for burn patients and skin cancer.”
Other USC researchers involved in the studies include postdoctoral fellow Eve Kandyba, Yvonne Leung, Yi-Bu Chen, Randall Widelitz, Cheng-Ming Chuong, Virginia M. Hazen, Agnieszka Kobielak, and Samantha J. Butler. Funding for the research was provided by the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation Award and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).