Could Stem Cells Cure Baldness?
September 2, 2011

Could Stem Cells Cure Baldness?


Researchers from Yale University may have found a genetically natural cure for baldness - stem cells that tell a person's hair when it's time to grow.

According to the scientists, these stem cells are the source of the signals that trigger hair growth and are found within the fatty layer of the skin.

They report that they were able to use these cells as a catalyst to grow hair in mice--a discovery that could eventually lead to new treatment for those who have lost or are losing their hair.

The discovery was announced by the school in a press release Thursday, and a paper detailing their results are scheduled to be published in Friday's edition of the journal Cell.

"If we can get these fat cells in the skin to talk to the dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again," Valerie Horsley, Yale's assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and the senior author of the paper, said in a statement.

According to the university's press release, while men suffering from male pattern baldness skill have stem cells in their follicle roots, those cells no longer possess the ability to spur on what they call "hair regeneration." Scientists were previously aware that those stem cells required signals from within the skin in order to grow back the hair, but until now, they were unable to pinpoint the source of those molecular indicators.

"Horsley's team observed that when hair dies, the layer of fat in the scalp that comprises most of the skin's thickness shrinks," the Yale press release said. "When hair growth begins, the fat layer expands in a process called adipogenesis. Researchers found that a type of stem cell involved in creation of new fat cells--adipose precursor cells--was required for hair regeneration in mice."

"They also found these cells produce molecules called PDGF (platelet derived growth factors), which are necessary to produce hair growth," they added. "Horsley's lab is trying to identify other signals produced by adipose precursor stem cells that may play a role in regulating hair growth. She also wants to know whether these same signals are required for human hair growth."

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Program. Joining Horsley on the project was lead author Eric Festa, Jackie Fretz, Ryan Berry, Barbara Schmidt, Matthew Rodeheffer and Mark Horowitz.

In an interview with Carrie Gann of the ABC News Medical Unit, Horsley said, "We don´t know for sure if it's a cure for baldness...But I'm hopeful that we can get human cells to do the same as the mice cells."


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