As companies seek to develop ever more innovative hair loss
solutions for men and women, it is becoming increasingly important to gain a deeper understanding of how hair growth
To this end, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, in Philadelphia, USA, have been exploring the phenomenon of hair distribution.
Their hope was that, by exploring the regulation of hair growth
and why some areas of mammals' bodies are hair-bearing, whilst others are hair-free, they may gain valuable insights. These may then have useful applications in areas such as future hair loss product
Effects of Wnt inhibition on hair growth
Findings from the team's research were published in the Cell Reports
medical journal on 30th November 2018.
Through mouse and rabbit trials they showed that, although hairless areas, such as the soles of our feet and palms of our hands possess the necessary attributes to grow hair, the Wnt inhibitor Dickkopf 2 (DKK2) "suppresses plantar hair follicle development and permits the formation of hairless skin."
It was therefore found that, as a result of evolutionary changes to its regulation, naturally-produced DKK2 specifies whether areas of skin will be hairy or hair-free in species-appropriate patterns.
"Plantar skin retains all of the mechanistic components needed for hair follicle development, as genetic deletion of Dkk2 permits formation of fully functional plantar hair follicles that give rise to external hair, contain sebaceous glands and a stem cell compartment, and undergo regenerative growth," write the study authors in a summary of their discoveries.
"In the absence of Dkk2, Wnt/β-catenin signaling activity is initially broadly elevated in embryonic plantar skin and gradually becomes patterned, mimicking follicular development in normally haired areas. These data provide a paradigm in which regionally restricted expression of a Wnt inhibitor underlies specification of hairless versus hairy skin."
Exploiting the Wnt pathway to treat hair loss?
In recent years the Wnt pathway
has been identified time and again as playing a significant role in hair growth. Similarly, the DKK2 gene has been associated with Male Pattern Baldness
and Female Pattern Hair Loss
in other studies. Therefore, it is fair to say this latest information backs the theory that their properties could potentially be exploited in order to treat hair loss.
Discussing the decision to focus on the Wnt pathway, co-senior author of the Perelman School's report, Professor Sarah E. Millar, Ph.D, told Medical News Today:
"We know that WNT signaling is critical for the development of hair follicles; blocking it causes hairless skin, and switching it on causes formation of more hair... In this study, we've shown the skin in hairless regions naturally produces an inhibitor that stops WNT from doing its job.
We hope that these lines of investigation will reveal new ways to improve wound healing and hair growth, and we plan to continue to pursue these goals moving forward."
This is certainly an exciting area of exploration, however, given androgenetic alopecia is both permanent and progressive, coupled with the fact that developing new medications can take many years
, anyone concerned they are losing their hair now, is best advised to seek advice as soon as possible. A consultation with a specialist will result in a timely diagnosis as well as personalised hair loss treatment
recommendations, featuring clinically-proven medications, tailored to the needs of each individual.