The topic of hair regrowth is a popular one. Just watch any late night block of television infomercials. The names Hair Club for Men and Rogaine are synonymous with hair regrowth, but what about the name stem cells? Stem cells have the ability to renew themselves, and this fact gives hope to many that a future without baldness and other hair loss conditions is not such an unfathomable one.
Recent research has shown promising results in the way of stem cells aiding in hair regrowth. In 2004, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine isolated stem cells that are responsible for hair growth. Hair follicles work in cycles. Normal follicles go through periods of growth, rest, and regrowth. Those who suffer from hair loss have abnormal follicles that can enter into much longer resting periods. University of Pennsylvania researchers theorized that the stem cells that are located in the bulge of a hair follicle actually cause hair growth. Researchers transplanted the decedents of stem cells during hair growth into adult mice. During a span of four weeks the transplanted stem cells made new follicles that created new hair.
Scientists from other universities and institutes have been working toward making advancements in the use of stem cells in hair regrowth. In 2009, scientists from Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Institute found a signaling molecule, a protein called BMP, that controls the activity of genes in skin cells that tell epithelial stem cells to make hair. This discovery has been said to be vital to future work in the reprogramming of hair follicles, which will aid in hair regrowth.
What does all of this mean? University of Pennsylvania researchers are quick to note that the use of stem cell transplants as a treatment for hair loss is at least ten years away. However, for those who suffer from hair loss, these findings from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, as well as the findings from the Rockefeller University and Howard Hughes Institute, hold the promise of a day in the not-so-distant future; a day that is without chemical hair treatments, and impractical sprays and remedies.
The scientific advancements in stems cells and their relationship to hair regrowth are not only beneficial to those who suffer from hair loss, but also to those who need treatments for burns. The cells that the University of Pennsylvania researchers were able to isolate are also the very cells that make other types of skin cells. The way that skin grafting treatments are conducted today leaves scarring, and these grafts cannot grow hair. Scientists hope that one day they will be able to develop procedures that allow for the use of stem cells in skin grafts that can produce hair.
While companies and products like the Hair Club for Men and Rogaine have often been the subject of fodder for comedians, hair loss is a serious subject that affects many men and women. For many, especially men, balding and hair loss are things that are expected to come with age. What if that notion could be changed or even reversed? Scientific advancements in stem cells used to aid in hair regrowth are paving the way for a future where hair loss will be a condition of the past.
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