A new study into the mechanisms that regulate the life cycle of hair follicle cells could potentially provide solutions to baldness and aid in wound healing.
Research could potentially lead to the end of baldness and faster healing times.
Scientists have made a significant breakthrough in understanding hair follicle behavior, discovering that a single chemical is essential for regulating when the cells divide and when they die. This discovery could provide effective treatment for baldness, and also hasten wound healing since hair follicles are known sources of stem cells.
The majority of human body cells are born with a predetermined form and function that are fixed during embryonic development. This means that a blood cell cannot transform into a nerve cell, or vice versa. By contrast, stem cells are like blank tiles in a game of Scrabble, in that they can be transformed into different types of cells.
The versatility of stem cells makes them useful in the restoration of injured tissue or organs.
Qixuan Wang, a mathematical biologist and co-author of the study from the University of California, Riverside, commented that in science fiction, the idea behind characters healing quickly from injuries is that stem cells are responsible.
Wang declared that their recent research gets them closer to understanding stem cell behavior in reality, which could enable them to regulate it and aid in wound healing. This research has been documented in an article released in the Biophysical Journal.
Wang’s team of researchers studied hair follicles because they are the only organ in humans that can regenerate themselves automatically and periodically, even in the absence of any wounds or injuries. Compared to the liver and stomach, which can only regenerate in response to injury, this makes hair follicles unique.
The scientists uncovered the role of TGF-beta, a protein, in the regulation of cellular division and self-destruction in hair follicles, which includes stem cells. This process ultimately results in the demise of the entire hair follicle.
Wang stated that TGF-beta has two opposing roles, as it activates certain hair follicle cells to promote new growth and also assists in orchestrating apoptosis, which is the process of cell death.
The quantity of TGF-beta produced by the cell can determine the outcome; if the cell produces a sufficient amount, it will activate cell division, but if too much is produced, it will cause apoptosis.
It is unclear why hair follicles cause their own demise. Some scientists suggest this could be an ancestral trait passed down from animals that shed fur to adapt to hot summer temperatures or to blend in with their environment.
Wang declared that even when a hair follicle dies, its stem cell reservoir remains intact. Upon receiving the signal to regenerate, the surviving stem cells divide and create new cells that form a new follicle.
By determining the exact manner in which TGF-beta triggers cell proliferation, and the way it communicates with other fundamental genes, scientists may be able to activate follicle stem cells and promote hair growth.
If perfect wound healing could be achieved, it would mean that hair follicles could be regenerated. This could potentially lead to a cure for baldness, which is a problem for millions of people across the globe. Controlling levels of TGF-beta could be the key to achieving this.
Wang said that their work might provide assistance to individuals who are dealing with several issues.