Stem Cells May be Key to Hair Loss, Yale Researchers Discover

Researchers from Yale University say that they have found the stem cells that dialogue with fatty cells on a human head to create and maintain hair growth. When these stem cells and fatty cells stop talking, that is the point at which hair and male pattern baldness begins, they say.

The research, published in the medical journal Cell on Sept. 2, 2011, suggests that getting the two cell groups to communicate again should lead to hair re-growth. "If we can get these fat cells in the skin to talk to the dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again," Dr. Valerie Horsley said in a Yale press release. Dr. Horsley is an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and the senior author of the research.

Healthy Fat Cells Grow Hair in Mice

Dr. Horsley and her Yale researchers took a group of healthy mice who had hair growing in a normal fashion. They then took fat cells from these mice and injected them into a group of mice whose hair was not growing. The result? Within two weeks the researchers say they found that the mice without hair began to grow hair once again. “The fat cells are important for hair growth," Dr. Horsley said.

"If they’re not there, the hair won’t grow."

The researcher was not ready to say the injection of fat cells from humans with normal growing hair into humans who are bald is certain to be a cure for baldness, but she does maintain that further study may show that it is. “We don’t know for sure if it’s a cure for baldness,” she said. “But I’m hopeful that we can get human cells to do the same as the mice cells.”

Regenerating Hair Growth

The Yale press release noted that men who suffer from male pattern baldness still have their own cells in roots, a lack is not the problem. However, their cells no longer regenerate hair growth because they lack the signals from the skin to command it. Hence the efforts to inject into the region healthy fat cells which still have the ability to command hair growth.

Dr. Horsley and her colleagues have already embarked on more study around the issue. They have given no timetable, however, on when they may have the answer as to whether the same hair-growth system governs hair growth in humans as it does in mice.


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