Researchers Identify Key Hair Loss Cells

General Hair Loss

A team at UT Southwestern in Dallas have published some amazing results from their research into hair loss. We look closer.


UT Southwestern

As one of the nation’s premier academic centers, with an expenditure on research well in excess of $400M a year, the teams from UT Southwestern are regularly published in medical journals. It is a serious generator of new ideas.

Dr. Lu Le was leading a team that were, as has so often been the case in giant strides in medicine (penicillin anyone?), looking at something completely different. In Dr Le’s own words “Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns grey and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair.” He went on, “With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems.”


It was already known that stem cells contained in a bulge area of hair follicles were involved in hair generation, and that stem cell factor (SCF), a protein, was essential. Dr. Le’s team discovered that cells involved in hair generation create the KROX20 protein. So cells with KROX20 and SCF are present they will move up from the bulb, interact with the cells that produce melanocyte cells and make pigmented hair. When the team removed the SCF the hair would grow gray, or white according to age. More interestingly, when they removed the KROX20 the hair did not grow at all.

The Future

Dr Le and his team are now investigating how the production of KROX20 and SCF are affected over time. Why is it that our hair thins and bleaches with age? The answers could have implications for hair loss sufferers everywhere, but especially those experiencing, or expecting, male or female pattern baldness.

HIS Hair Clinic

Excited as were to read news of an advance in hair loss, and from such a well respected source too, we wait to read more on the future research. Right now they have definitely identified something important, whether overcoming your DNA and growing hair is as simple as adding a single protein remains to be seen. It would remains a very long way from a product just yet. Not sure how close we are to a hair loss cream from a stem cell therapy either and, short of creating a topical application, clinical trials for anything more sophisticated are likely to take a long time. Dr Le’s work (you can see the original publication in Genes Development by clicking here) has gone from investigating an incredibly rare tumor, to stumbling on a possible hair loss cure, to research on the very way we age. If we are all very lucky, one day he will have a collection of Nobel prizes on a mantelpiece, and we will all have magnificent manes.

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