In a year full of exciting developments in the field of hair regrowth, scientists have opened yet another avenue of investigation in the search for hair loss cures. This time, a team of researchers led by Dr. George Daley from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, believe they have identified and isolated a special 'Fountain of Youth' gene that can trigger tissue regeneration and, thus, the growth of new hair.
According to the research, a family of genes known as “LIN28” provide two useful tools for tissue regrowth. LIN28 directly inhibits proteins in cells that are responsible for ageing, identifying the genes as a potential treatment in face creams for instance.
More importantly for hair loss treatment, LIN28 has been shown to trigger the activity of mitochondria, the “power plants” of cells. Mitochondria provide the energy required for cells to “heal” themselves, promoting new growth in the process. The researchers have also created small molecules that mimic LIN28, boosting cellular metabolism.
The study suggests that LIN28 could become an agent of super growth, having demonstrated the ability to regrow “finger” tips clipped from the feet of newborn mice. The gene was also shown to help regrow hair, skin, and broken bones and cartilage.
The researchers also used rodent experiments to recreate human hair loss conditions like Traction Alopecia, which is hair loss caused by excessive tension being applied to the hair shafts. Triggering LIN28 in the test mice led to successful hair regrowth, raising the possibility of similar healing potential for humans.
"It sounds like science fiction, but Lin28a could be part of a healing cocktail that gives adults the superior tissue repair seen in juvenile animals," said Dr. Daley.
LIN28 was first discovered in earthworms, but has subsequently been identified in mice and humans alike. As such, the use of LIN28 gene therapy is simply kick-starting a normal growth process in humans.
Unfortunately during their tests with LIN28 which involve “tricking” mature cells into becoming stem cells (the building block for all new regeneration within the human body), researchers also discovered a major problem. In many cases the process actually raised the risk of developing cancer, creating a significant challenge for scientists looking to use LIN28 to develop a cure for hair loss.
As things stand, a successful hair loss treatment using LIN28 remains some way off. Dr. Daley explained: “Efforts to improve wound healing and tissue repair have mostly failed, but altering metabolism provides a new strategy which we hope will prove successful.”
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