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Stem Cells in Test Beakers Pippet

Research has discovered a new way to activate the stem cells in the hair follicle to make hair grow. The research could lead to new drugs that promote hair growth for people with baldness, alopecia and even hair loss that is associated with factors such as hormonal imbalance, stress, ageing and chemotherapy. Today, we’re going to look at what this research means for hair loss and the future of hair transplants.

What are stem cells?

Hair follicle stem cells are long-lived cells that are found in the hair follicles. The stem cells are present in the skin and are normally inactive, however, they are activated during a new hair growth cycle. The amount of time the stem cell is inactive is regulated by many factors, and in certain cases, they can fail to activate which causes hair loss.

Can stem cell research help hair growth?

The research found that hair follicle stem cell metabolism is different from other cells of the skin. Cellular metabolism involves the breakdown of the nutrients needed for cells to divide and then make energy and respond to their environment.

This process uses enzymes that alter the nutrients to produce metabolites. The hair follicle stem cells consume the nutrient glucose from the bloodstream and eventually produce a metabolite called pyruvate. The pyruvate is then sent to either the mitochondria (the part of the cell that creates energy) or it can convert it into another metabolite called lactate.

Christofk, an associate professor of biological chemistry and molecular and medical pharmacology said “Our observations about hair follicle stem cell metabolism prompted us to examine whether genetically diminishing the entry of pyruvate into the mitochondria would force hair follicle stem cells to make more lactate, and if that would activate the cells and grow hair more quickly”

The research team blocked the production of lactate genetically in mice and showed that this prevented hair follicle stem cell activation. They then increased lactate production generically in mice and this accelerated hair follicle stem cell activation – increasing the hair cycle.

The study discovered a lot of interesting insights and ways into activating stem cells and the idea of using drugs to stimulate hair growth through hair follicle stem cells is promising.

Will stem cells change the future of hair loss?

Possibly. As mentioned above the research from this study highlighted that increasing certain nutrients to stem cells can help to promote and accelerate the hair growth cycle. This could in turn help to promote hair growth for some people. However, it is important to understand that research is not fully developed which means it could be a long time before this option is widely available.

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