A New York team of scientists has uncovered a previously unknown mechanism involved in hair loss. It creates an entirely new avenue of research, one that might lead to new drugs that can help sufferers. We look closer. 


Dermal Papilla Cells

A team at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai has been studying the dermal sheath that wraps around the hair follicle. It plays a role by producing dermal papilla cells. During the lifetime of every hair, these crucial cells signal to the stem cells when it is time to create a new hair shaft. At this point, the existing hair is shed. 

On closer examination, looking at mice, the team discovered that the sheath works as a smooth muscle. It contracts and expands to push up the hair shaft and take the dermal papilla cells with it. 

Further experiments showed the same process at play in human hair. They saw the sheath contract to allow the unwanted hair to fall out, making space for the new hair to grow into.

Is It A Hair Loss Cure?

Lead researcher, Dr. Michael Rendl, said ‘Blocking the newly discovered muscle and its contraction cannot cure baldness caused by those processes.’ He went on; ‘Instead, the blocking contraction and arresting the destruction phase of the cycle has the potential to retain the existing hair shaft that is otherwise lost when a new hair shaft is produced.’

It would seem Dr. Rendl is suggesting the answer might be a qualified yes. That his team is on course to produce something that might be a help with hair loss.

HIS Hair Clinic

Dr. Rendl and his New York team are at the early stages of their work. They now move on to identifying the drugs that can prevent that contraction and save the hair. Ultimately, we go bald when the sheath contracts and the hair is shed but something then goes wrong with the signal to start growing the new hair. So, in theory, they might be able to stem the advance of hair loss. How long for remains another question. Presumably. the hairs that are being shed have a natural life that we are artificially extending. We will have to wait to find out whether that has any impact on the health and general condition of the hair. 

Nevertheless, it is another brick in the wall toward a complete understanding of hair growth and for that, the team must be commended. Who knows, maybe a single hair can live for decades in which case they might have something exciting on their hands. What is for sure is that, like any piece of good scientific research, it raised a host of new questions. 

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By IanW


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