Millions of people worldwide suffer from hair loss. Researchers from the USA are now identifying the possible reason. A specific protein is responsible - too much of it causes hair to fall out. But it could also help those affected to grow new hair.
Researchers from the USA report that they have found a possible remedy for hair loss. Thanks to the new findings, it should be possible to prevent it - and even regenerate the hair. The University of California scientists used modeling to find that a certain substance in high concentrations kills hair follicles.
The substance is a protein called TGF-beta. According to the study published in the magazine "Biophysical Journal", this controls the growth of the hair follicles - the structures that surround the hair root and thus anchor the hair in the skin. According to the researchers, the protein is responsible for both the growth and the death of hair follicles.
"TGF-beta has two opposite functions. It helps hair follicle cells produce new life and later it helps regulate apoptosis, the process of cell death," said co-author Qixuan Wang, according to a statement from the university. So, as with many chemicals, it's the amount that makes the difference: when the concentration is just right, it grows new hair. Too much of the protein leads to hair loss.
For people who suffer from hair loss, however, this could mean hope: Because hair follicles contain stem cells that can transform into all kinds of cells. "Even if a hair follicle kills itself, its stem cell reservoir is not killed," Wang explains. When the surviving stem cells received the signal to regenerate, they would be activated and able to form a new follicle.
If scientists are able to accurately determine TGF-beta levels in the future, they may hold the key to reviving dead hair follicles. This could then one day lead to a cure for the baldness that afflicts millions of people around the world. And that's not all: wound healing could also be accelerated in this way. "Our work could potentially help people suffering from a variety of problems," Wang said.
Incidentally, it is unclear why the hair follicles kill themselves. Some hypotheses suggest that it is an inherited trait of animals that shed their fur to survive hot summer temperatures or that attempt camouflage.