THURSDAY, Oct. 28, 2021 (HealthDay News) — New research in mice may provide clues to age-related problems hair loss in men and women.
The scientists found that as the hair Mother cells as the mice age, they lose the stickiness that keeps them secure within the hair follicle. This allows the stem cells to move away from the follicle.
“The result is that there are fewer and fewer stem cells in the hair follicle to produce hair,” said study lead author Rui Yi, a professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. This leads to hair thinning and baldness during aging, he noted.
The researchers also identified genes that can regulate the adhesion of hair stem cells. And they created mice that were missing two of the genes, FOXC1 and NFATC1.
Mice without those genes began to lose hair rapidly at four months and went completely bald between 12 and 16 months, according to the study. The results were published in October in the journal Nature Aging.
Mice and humans share many similarities in hair and stem cells, so this finding may apply to older men and women with thinning hair, Yi suggested. However, animal research does not always give good results in humans.
“We believe that this stem cell escape mechanism has never been reported before, because no one could trace the aging process in living animals,” Yi said in a university news release.
Hair follicles were known to shrink with age, but how this happened was not clear. Many experts believed it was due to cell death or the inability of cells to divide as they age.
“We found, at least in part, that it’s because hair follicle stem cells migrate out of their niche,” Yi said. Noting that cell death also occurred during his observation, he added: “Our discovery does not challenge existing theories, but provides a new mechanism.”
In a new study, researchers are trying to reset the FOXC1 and NFATC1 genes to find out if doing so will reverse hair loss.
The Association of the American Academy of Dermatology has more on hair loss.
SOURCE: Northwestern University, press release, October 26, 2021