U.S. researchers have pinpointed a molecule that triggers hair follicle growth in mice, a treatment that one day could mean some shaggy dos, or at least a few more strands, for humans who have experienced hair loss, a new study shows.
The molecule acts like an operator, transferring messages, or proteins, between the outer and inner layers of skin, an exchange that ultimately drives hair formation, researchers at the Stanford University said in the study, published on Saturday in the issue of the Journal of Genes and Development.
Unlike existing products that slow hair loss, researchers hope the laminin-511 could potentially regenerate the actual follicles that grow hair.
"Loss of hair is not going to kill anybody," said Dr. Peter Marinkovich, the study's senior author and an associate professor at Stanford University's School of Medicine. "At the same time, for some people, hair loss can be a really traumatic thing, especially for women."
He hopes the treatment eventually could help patients who suffer from alopecia, a disorder that can cause hair loss in patches, or speed up hair growth for chemotherapy patients.
Evidence suggests laminin-511 could lead to more than fuller heads of hair: Researchers believe the molecule might have the ability to regenerate other developing tissues, like limbs or evenorgans; but further tests are necessary to understand exactly how that process works.
In the research, mice injected with the purified molecule grew back hair in two weeks, at half the thickness of a normal rodent.
The Stanford study presents a new understanding of how laminin-511 works, said Dr. George Cotsarelis, director of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. But more clinical trials are necessary to show how humans will react to the treatment.
(Xinhua News Agency August 4, 2008)