Researchers working on two different projects have discovered new clues to what causes the gradual loss of hair as we age — findings that point the way to potential cures for baldness.
One team, with members from Japan, the U.S. and the Netherlands, found that DNA damage was at least partly to blame for the condition, known as alopecia, Medical Xpress
The other group of researchers, from the University of Colorado, discovered a certain protein that appears to be responsible for causing follicle stem cells to go dormant.
Both lines of researcher were published in the journal Science.
A greater understanding of why people lose their hair as they age might benefit people looking to avoid baldness, but may also offer keen insights to how stem cells work, the researchers said.
In the DNA study, the researchers found strong evidence that suggests the root cause of hair loss is accumulated damage to DNA over the course of a person’s lifetime. To reach that conclusion, the team examined skin samples from aged mice and women found DNA damage had led to the breakdown of a protein called Collagen 17A1 and that caused follicle stem cells to slough off.
For the stem cell study, the second team of researchers examined the cells during both phases of hair growth — the growing and resting phases — and identified a protein called Foxc1 that triggers hair growth to stop. When the gene that controls Foxc1 was removed, the follicles stayed in the "on" phase indefinitely.
While the finding is not quite a cure for baldness, it opens the door to stem cell based therapies that one day might be developed to treat, prevent, or reverse hair loss.
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