Hair loss prevention may soon take on a whole new dimension. A new form of treatment for those who suffer from pattern baldness may come from the stem cell research being carried out by scientist at the Rockefeller University research labs. Someday you may be able to reactivate stem cells that reside in your hair follicles back into production by applying a specially engineered medication. This could mean growing back a large portion of your hair lost through the balding process.
As you age the resting phase of the hair cycle gets longer and longer and for those predisposed genetically for pattern baldness, the hair follicles go into a more permanent phase of dormancy. It was believed by scientists working for the project, that stem cells in hair follicles did not divide frequently so they could maintain their potency. This reduction in stem cell division was a protective measure from wear and tear. However, new research has discovered a protein that slows down stem cell division and the new data suggest that stem cells may not need as much protection as once assumed.
Those working on the research project discovered that the protein NFATc1 acts to put the brakes on stem cell division and that when a drug called cyclosporine was administered in mice, the stem cells increased their processes that cranked up the production of hair. When Cyclosporine was administered the hair growth phase was activated for those follicles that were in the resting phase.
During their ongoing research, scientists found that stem cells didn't need much rest to maintain their multi potent properties. It seems from the data gathered so far that the stem cells maintained their character without degradation, which should be good news for the future of hair loss prevention.
Using genetically engineered mice these researchers found that when blocking NFATc1 production, hair radically increased and NFATc1 didn't stop the hair cycle, but rather shortened the resting phase and prompted advanced entry to the growth state.
Researchers believe that it is possible to develop a local and more specific inhibitor of NFATc1 than the drug cyclosporine A to stimulate these stem cells to promote new hair growth without the side effects of dangerous tumor formation. The test they have run so far on mice showed no signs of tumorigenesis, which is often a dangerous byproduct of triggering stem cells into action.
Elaine Fuchs, head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development had this to say about their research in this area of Stem Cells. "This is the first case where we have been able to activate the hair cycle without the accompanying signs of tumorigenesis". Fuchs also stated that if they could activate the stem cells processes without tumorigenesis developing, then they would have made a giant leap forward."
Though breakthroughs in the research laboratories offer great promise, it may take a decade or two before safe effective products will enter the market and have an impact on hair loss prevention. It's possible that the current research will relegate male and female pattern baldness as a thing of the past.