Hair follicle stem cells

It has long been thought that stem cells could play a key role in hair loss treatment. While procedures like platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) have their roots in this theory, scientists have remained unsure of how stem cells can be harnessed to affect hair loss.

However, a new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism could be about to change all that.

The research

The study, which was carried out by a team from the University of Helsinki, looked at what happens to the stem cells in hair follicles when they are in the dormant phase of the hair cycle.

The researchers found that in order to enter that resting phase, the stem cells have to change their metabolic state and reduce their energy use. The team identified one key protein, Rictor, that seemed to be essential to this process.

Most interestingly for those of us experiencing hair loss, the stem cells with lower levels of Rictor seemed to have more of a struggle in ‘waking up’ and beginning to grow more hairs. The team began to think that this might mean Rictor plays an important role in hair loss.

Testing out the theory

To see if their theory was correct, the researchers ran a study on some mice, and noticed that those mice with lower levels of the protein Rictor did indeed experience more hair loss.

Just like in humans, the mice with less Rictor in their stem cells tended to be the older ones, which could explain why hair loss often progresses with age.

But the research wasn’t just successful in identifying the potential cause of hair loss. Researchers were particularly excited that when they administered a glutaminase inhibitor to the Rictor-deficient mice, their stem cells began to function normally again.

Could this be the hair loss solution we’ve all been waiting for?

It is probably too soon to tell what impact this will have on hair loss treatment. Any products based on this research will need to undergo intensive clinical trials to ensure that they are both effective and safe. And there has been no indication that any such trials are underway just yet.

The research does however provide some hope that the scientific world is taking hair loss seriously. And the first step to finding an effective treatment for a problem is identifying the cause, so this is a big leap forward, even if it could take some years to result in a treatment.

In the meantime, if you are struggling with hair loss and would like to do something about it, there are plenty of options available to you. Your best first step is to seek expert advice, to identify the cause of your hair loss and find a solution that works for you.

If you would like to book a consultation with one of our hair loss experts, please call our friendly team on 0121 312 2999.

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