You’ve heard it before of course. Everyone has. Going back to forever. So what is different this time? The answer is twenty first century science flexing it’s muscle and giving us a glimpse into a much smarter future. A future that holds the promise of a new generation of healthcare that takes us past reactive medication or surgery. One where stem cell technology is mastered so that our bodies do our bidding. Never mind hair, sprouting new legs is on the agenda.
It Won’t Be For Everyone
I am firmly of the belief that if some natural cure existed it would have been found by now. Just about everything from pigeon poo to cow saliva has been tested. And failed. The answer was always going to be a scientific breakthrough of some sort. Progress, in recent years, has been occasional but positive – a couple of products exist that hold the promise of at least halting hair loss, albeit with a list of potential side effects that give pause for thought. But absolutely nothing has ever come close to actually growing new hair.
It should be no surprise then that the answer comes to us from the world of molecular biology and in a project totally focussed on the topic… and not trying to develop a new field of hair loss cure research after noticing new hair growing from the knees of mice fed a new arthritus drug.
Recently published studies have built significantly on our understanding of the triggers for hair loss. It had been known for some time that there are two types of stem cell present in hair, active and quiescent. Active cells divide easily but the quiescent ones can have more trouble… it had been thought that these cells were the cause of men going bald. The new studies have shown that while hair loss sufferers do in fact have these quiescent cells, from which new hair is mostly produced, they do not divide at all. Crucially, it means that the potential to grow new hair does exist but that some regulatory factors are preventing it from happening. They have actually gone on to identify the specific factors involved (the main one has been given the name Sonic Hedgehog) – arriving at the conclusion that hair loss occurs when the sufferer no longer produces sufficient active stem cells, the active cells are responsible for secreting the factors that trigger the new growth… making the quiescent cells divide.
There are a number of directions that this research can now head off in and the ultimate cure might still be a little way off. But it is now at least possible to describe it in the broadest terms.