Researchers from UCLA have claimed to discover a new treatment that could activate hair follicle stem cells and allow them to grow again. William Lowry and Heather Christofk, the leaders of the study, have stated that they could be sitting on new drugs that could successfully promote hair growth on people who have gone through alopecia or baldness. The treatment could help with baldness caused by several factors, including aging, stress, hormonal problems, or chemotherapy. The study was published recently in Nature Cell Biology.
Unlocking Stem Cell Metabolism in Hair Follicles
One of the core aspects of the study was to identify the characteristics unique to stem cells in hair follicles, which are quite different from other skin cells. The study stated that these cells are predominantly inactive, or quiescent. They can, however, be activated to start off a new hair cycle. Several factors are responsible for keeping the hair follicle stem cells active or inactive, and is the latter that occurs commonly in the case of people with baldness. An important part of the study was the identification of the metabolism of hair follicle stem cells as separate from that performed by other cells. Based on these observations, the team further studied whether they could modify the way the stem cells worked if they could genetically reduce the entry of a special metabolite called pyruvate. The goal was to allow the stem cells to lactate more, enabling a stronger and quicker hair growth.
Theorizing on a Hair Growth Drug
According to Lowry, there has been no prior study that could conclusively show whether hair follicle stem cells could be controlled by increasing or decreasing lactate. Their study successfully showed this in mice models and led the team to embark on the next phase of the research: finding a drug that could do this. The study’s first author Aimee Flores stated that they have figured out numerous and interesting things about stem cells from this study. It would also be beneficial to millions of people across the world that could simply consume a drug that can stimulate hair follicle stem cells to grow hair.