Could hair loss be reversed by activating our stem cells?

hair loss studyWhen it comes to hair loss research, there has been a lot of exciting breakthroughs in recent years. The most recent discovery by a team of researchers at the University of California, is that the stem cells within hair follicles could be activated to encourage new hair growth.

It is now claimed the discovery could help in the development of new drugs to reverse hair loss in those already experiencing alopecia or baldness.

Hair loss study revealed deeper understanding of stem cell metabolism

Scientists William Lowry and Heather Christofk, who led the research team, discovered the metabolism of the hair follicle stem cells differed from the metabolism of cells within the skin.

The metabolism of stem cells helps to break down nutrients, which are required to ensure the cells divide and create energy for the body. It makes use of enzymes which change the nutrients and encourage them to produce what is known as metabolites. In terms of hair follicles, the stem cells absorb the glucose nutrient from the bloodstream. They then process it and gradually use it to produce the pyruvate metabolite.

Once it has been created, the pyruvate is then either converted into a further metabolite known as lactate, or it can be sent to the area of the cell responsible for creating energy known as the mitochondria.

This understanding of the hair follicle’s stem cell metabolism is what led the researchers to carry out an examination into whether forcing the cells to create more lactate would activate hair growth.

Experiment proves effective and provides new insights into stem cell activation

In the first part of their study, the UCLA researchers genetically stopped production of lactate in mice. They discovered this stopped the activation of hair follicle stem cells. They then collaborated with the University of Utah to genetically increase the production of lactate. They discovered this successfully activated the hair follicle’s stem cells.

This was the first time that researchers have discovered the effect lactate can have on hair follicle stem cell activation. It enabled them to look at potential drugs which could replicate the effect when applied to the skin. Two potential drugs were identified – RCGD423 and UK5099.

The RCGD423 drug works by activating the JAK-Stat; a cellular signalling pathway. This sends information from outside the cells, to the nucleus within them. When the JAK-Stat pathway is activated, it encourages more lactate to be produced. The UK5099 drug stops the pyruvate metabolite from getting through to the mitochondria. This in turn forces an increased lactate production.

The hair loss study has ultimately provided researchers with valuable knowledge into the different ways stem cells could be activated. Two separate patents have been filed, one for each drug, so it may not be too long before we start seeing progress on a potential baldness cure.

What hair loss options are available right now?

The results of the latest research are exciting, but the truth is a cure using the drugs identified may take quite a few years to be released. Further testing will be required even once the patents are granted (if they’re granted). So, those experiencing hair loss right now may want to look into current effective treatments.

There are a large number of hair loss treatment options available from medications and topical treatments to hair transplants. The type of treatment a patient requires will depend upon the type of hair loss experienced and the severity of the problem. Therefore, it’s advisable to book a consultation with a hair specialist such as a dermatologist to discuss your needs prior to exploring any treatment option.