Have cancer researchers found hair loss cure?US scientists have accidently discovered the cells which make hair turn grey as they were studying how cancerous tumours form. This breakthrough could prove crucial for identifying potential ways to treat baldness and greying hairs. Professor of Dermatology, Dr Lu Le at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre, said that with the knowledge they have gained from this project, they could possibly work on creating a topical compound which can deliver the necessary gene to the hair follicles which could correct hair loss and greying. Dr Le also suggested that his findings can also explain why we age.

What did the researchers find?

The scientists discovered the role of the protein KROX20 in hair colour. This protein is produced within the hair follicle in specific cells, which consequently switches on production of the protein Stem Cell Factor (SCF). The SCF protein is important for supporting pigment production in the hair follicle, when this protein is not present then mice have been shown to lose their hair colour, and their hairs will turn white. When the protein KROX20 was absent altogether, no further hair growth occurred and the mice became bald.

How likely is it that hair loss can be cured from these findings?

Although encouraging findings, this does not actually indicate that the cure for baldness and hair-greying is nearby. Research is still at an early stage, it is also currently unknown whether grey hair can be reversed, and if so then how. The study was also carried out on mice, but as the basic biology between mammals is very similar it is possible that the results can apply to humans. Researchers want to confirm their findings in the laboratory on human cells before they can apply prospective cures to humans. Research takes time and there is no guarantee a successful treatment is close.

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By Ian Watson

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