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Yale researchers discover source of signals that trigger hair growth

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September 5, 2011

A discovery by Yale researchers could lead to new treatments for baldness (Image: Tumblewe...

A discovery by Yale researchers could lead to new treatments for baldness (Image: Tumbleweed:) via Flickr)

In news that offers hope to millions of chrome-domes everywhere - yours truly included - Yale researchers have made a discovery that could lead to new treatments for baldness. While men with male pattern baldness still have stem cells in follicle roots, they need signals from within the skin to grow hair. Until now, the source of those signals that trigger hair growth has been unclear, but the Yale researchers claim to have now discovered it.

When hair dies, the researcher team led by Valerie Horsley, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, observed that the layer of fat in the scalp that comprises most of the skin's thickness shrinks. When hair growth begins, the fat layer expands in a process called adipogenesis. They identified a type of stem cell - adipose precursor cells - within the skin's fatty layer that is involved in the creation of new fat cells. They showed that these cells' production of molecules called PGDF (platelet derived growth factors), was necessary to spur hair regrowth in mice.

Horsley's team is trying to identify other signals produced by adipose precursor stem cells that may play a role in regulating hair growth. She also wants to know whether these same signals are required for human hair growth.

"If we can get these fat cells in the skin to talk to the dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again," said Horsley.

The Yale team's research is published in the September 2 issue of the journal Cell.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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12 Comments

seriously this kind of treatment , if it works well, should go straight to generic. the thought of someone having a patent on this for more than 1 year would piss off enough hair wanting baldies to start a revolution

Facebook User
5th September, 2011 @ 07:56 pm PDT

sorry Jeddy and Darren, it will be proprietary for at least seven years so they can make maximum coconuts, you poor bald suckers, thank the spirits my hair is still there after 57 years, though silver,, avoiding the puke "just for men" insulting ads

Bill Bennett
5th September, 2011 @ 08:38 pm PDT

I disagree. Bald men pay outrageous sums for treatments that are effective on only 30% or less of patients who try it. If anything comes of this, it's a sure-fire moneymaker, regardless of price.

William H Lanteigne
5th September, 2011 @ 09:04 pm PDT

Hell, bald(ing) men pay outrageous sums for treatments that are only 30% effective AND cause long-lasting (or permanent) damage in other areas of life, such as sexual dysfunction and whatnot. Moneymaker indeed.

Frank van Schie
6th September, 2011 @ 03:05 am PDT

Now if I can only get the roll circulating around my stomach to talk to my head.

Ralph L. Seifer, Long Beach, California.

rseifer
6th September, 2011 @ 10:21 am PDT

Thank God I'm bald and loving it. If everyone else were like me, these fellows at Yale research center will remain broke.

Chigozie Onyeukwu Ubani
6th September, 2011 @ 10:27 am PDT

Now if they could just find a pill or treatment that would keep gray hair away -- they'd be billionaires!

Janice Celeste
6th September, 2011 @ 10:41 am PDT

Dr. Wayne Dyer said that his bald head was actually a solar panel for a sex machine!

I would pay to re-grow my hair, but, not as much as I have saved by not going to barber shops for over 20 years. I won a sales contest several years ago and was given a crystal statue of a bald eagle. I commented that the award was not for my work, but for my likeness to the eagle's head.

Having recently lost about 55 pounds, my friends tell me my bald head looks better on me than if I had real hair. I think they are saying one of those "off-handed" compliments like the one that goes; "You don't sweat much for a fat girl."

Anyway, I make the best of it, and don't worry if it never grows back. There are things I would much more like to achieve.

capn_jack@bellsouth.net
6th September, 2011 @ 11:15 am PDT

Hey, folks! This would NOT be like Rogaine or other Minoxidil-based treatments. If the research does eventually lead to a treatment, it will most likely be something that you apply for a week, two or three until the process of adipogenesis is fully restored. I imagine that once the fat layer is established, hair will continue to grow until the fat layer is once again depleted.

If a treatment does develop from this research, it sounds like something that will be applied vigorously for a period of time and then only occasionally thereafter as regular maintenance.

Unfortunately, to maximize profit, they probably won't sell it over-the-counter. Instead, they might relegate it to clinical treatment only. Not for any real purpose other than to give it a cachet worthy of being VERY expensive. Ten years LATER, they will make it available OTC.

kalqlate
6th September, 2011 @ 11:29 am PDT

As a 'chrome dome' and a 'poor bald sucker' myself, I find it interesting in our culture that men in my age group (I am 54) sometimes can seem to be more concerned with balding hair that we can be with such things as expanding waistlines. I was going bald in my late middle to late 40's, and maybe a lack of vanity kept me from ever considering spending money on things such as Rogaine and all the other various remedies for hair loss (some, as Frank points out, not so good for you in the long run). I am way more happy that, through all the little incremental lifestyle choices I made in my life, I have arrived at this point with a relatively lean physique that makes up for any image problems I might have had from being bald. And, as a side benefit, women in my age group who I have talked to about such things as their preferences in a man's appearance, seem to care less about baldness, and more enthusiastic about a man of my age having a flat stomach and a slim youthful body...

It would be great if this particular discovery actually can work for a lot of people - and won't cost $$$$$$$$$$. I just find the subject of balding and the perceptions surrounding it all rather fascinating - so I am just adding my 2 cents worth of opinion to the comments.

RonLee
6th September, 2011 @ 11:47 am PDT

They have been doing this type of treatment for years at Ashley and Martin Australia. Apparently it works.

Lawrie Barclay
6th September, 2011 @ 10:26 pm PDT

Hope for the hopeless? but this is really great news

Leong Hee Chan
6th September, 2011 @ 11:05 pm PDT
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