As the year comes to an end, yet another hair loss study has rocked the Internet with fascinating results! Just a couple weeks ago, researchers from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre released findings that demonstrate how the immune system can be used to induce changes in the regenerative skin stem cells of laboratory mice. The study was published in PLOS Biology, and while follow up studies are needed, the hair loss community embraces these findings as much-welcomed insight on the potential for a “stem cell” hair loss cure.
Related news: Discovery of New Stem Cells May Hold Future Hair Loss Cure.
Commenting on the study, author Mirna Perez-Moreno explains, “We have discovered that macrophages[…] are also involved in the activation of hair follicle stem cells,” (i).
Macrophages are special immune system cells that play an important role in a process called phagocytosis. To protect the body, macrophages consume inbound pathogens while assisting in cellular repair (e.g. healing wounds). In the study conducted by the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, the macrophages had an additional and shocking effect on the hair follicles of lab mice.
The discovery began, at first, as a simple observation. While administering anti-inflammatory drugs, Perez-Moreno noticed that some mice experienced hair growth shortly after receiving the medication. This led her to hypothesize that the cells of the immune system might play a vital role in communicating with the hair follicle stem cells. To evaluate the hypothesis, the team tested several individual immune system cells to see if they had an effect on hair growth.
As researchers took note, one specific type of immune system cell did appear to play a causal role in activating stem cells within the hair follicle: The macrophages.
Summarizing the findings of the study, authors explain, “Our study underlines the importance of macrophages as modulators in skin regenerative processes, going beyond their primary function.”
Eventually, researchers hope to use findings like this to develop treatments in which stem cells can be “activated” to promote cellular regeneration. Such treatments could provide far-reaching benefits in the fight against terminal illnesses and other serious health conditions. For men and women who suffer with hair loss, stem cell therapy promises to one day “reactivate” hair follicles to reverse pattern baldness without foams, prescription medications, or hair transplant surgery.