In the past, several hair loss treatments, like Finasteride, have been discovered “by accident” as researchers attempted to uncover cures for various medical conditions. And so it is with the latest potential stem cell treatment discovered by researchers recently.
Could a treatment for skin tumours also help with hair regrowth?
Whilst looking at a way of using stem cell therapy to treat skin tumours, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine isolated a protein inhibitor that had a direct effect on hair growth. According to their findings published in Cell Stem Cell journal, balding is caused by the protein inhibitor Dkk1 which prevents the “intracellular Wnt/ß-catenin pathway” from functioning properly – or put more simply, critical proteins are no longer delivered to hair cells, halting new hair growth.
Taking the findings further
Investigating further, the University of Pennsylvania team discovered two more important facts. First, the stem cells required for new hair growth in the follicles of the scalp do not die off or disappear when Dkk1 takes effect – they merely become dormant.
To prove this, the researchers then removed Dkk1 from affected stem cells, restoring the Wnt/ß-catenin pathway. They then found that stem cells in the hair follicles were re-activated and that hair began growing normally once more.
Dkk1 is already active in everyone’s body
Dkk1 may sound like an undesirable chemical to be present in the human body, particularly for men and women experiencing hair loss. The truth is that Dkk1 is actually vital to normal health however.
The University of Pennsylvania team noted that Dkk1 was already actively inhibiting the Wnt/ß-catenin within the human body, and with good reason. Dkk1 is responsible for preventing hair growth on the tongue, palms and soles of the feet for instance. Without Dkk1, hair would grow in unwanted places, causing problems with touch and taste as well as appearance.
A potential treatment for the future
Commenting on the findings, Sarah Miller, who led the research team said,
“While more research is needed to improve our understanding of this pathway, our results suggest that therapeutics capable of decreasing levels of Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the skin could potentially be used to block growth of unwanted hair, and/or to treat certain skin tumours. Conversely, if delivered in a limited, safe and controlled way, agents that activate Wnt signalling might be used to promote hair growth in dormant hair follicles in conditions such as male pattern baldness.”
As with all stem cell research, a complete treatment could still be many years away. Researchers need to not only verify the Dkk1 effect, but they will also need to test and assess the wider implications of altering its effect on the rest of the human body to ensure that there are no harmful side effects.
There is also currently no indication that the University of Pennsylvania will be switching the focus of their research from their original goal of treating skin tumours.
The Belgravia Centre—————————————————————————————————–
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our online diagnostic form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our hair loss success stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 0800 077 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.
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