The Key to Healthy Hair - The Big Fat Truth

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have found that a fat synthesizing enzyme may be the key to healthy skin and hair in research which could lead to new ways to treat hair loss and maintain healthy locks.

"For some time, we have been studying the enzymes that make triglycerides," said Robert V. Farese, Jr., senior investigator and author on the study. "We found that one of these enzymes is a major regulator of retinoic acid actions in the skin."

Hair loss in miceWhen researchers used genetic engineering to delete the enzyme known as DGAT1 in mice, they found its absence caused levels of retinoic acid (RA) to be greatly increased in the skin, resulting in alopecia, or hairloss. A GICD release said these effects could be prevented by depriving the mice of a source of retinol in their diet.

Retinoic acid (RA), which comes from vitamin A (retinol), is essential for many biological processes and has been used to treat skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, and certain cancers, but it is fairly toxic and must be carefully controlled.

The study discovered that DGAT1 can convert retinol to a relatively idle storage form but without DGAT1, this ability is lost and any excess retinol is converted to RA.

In mice without DGAT1, the skin was very sensitive to retinol and they were lean, resistant to diet-induced obesity, more sensitive to insulin and leptin, and had abnormalities in skin and mammary gland (milk-producing organ) development.

"Our results show that DGAT1 is an important component for controlling retinoic acid levels in the skin of mice," said Michelle Shih, one of the authors on the study. "These findings may have implications for the treatment of human skin or hair disorders."
The Gladstone researchers have begun to clarify mechanisms for the hair loss and even to identify treatments that cause the hair to grow back.

(Mouse pic courtesy of be khe at flickr)

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