Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made a surprising discovery that has the potential to make hair loss worries a thing of the past. The news is particularly exciting for some 500 million men and nearly 20 million women who suffer with thinning, shedding, or balding, as it may hold the key to permanently reversing the signs of hair loss.
Men and women who suffer with hair loss will have to wait for this new study to produce an effective cure, however. The research is based solely on trials conducted with laboratory mice, and extensive follow-up research and clinical trials are needed before hair transplant surgeons can hope to offer such a treatment to patients.
Fibroblast Growth Factor 9 (Fgf9) and Hair Follicle Growth
While studying the wound healing process in laboratory mice, researchers at the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania found that a specific type of immune system cell could be the key to curing baldness. The cell, called gamma-delta (γδ), produces a vital protein during the healing process. That protein, fibroblast growth factor 9 (Fgf9), also appears to fuel the growth of hair follicles.
It is important to note, however, that the human immune system differs from that of mice. Specifically, humans are markedly deficient in gamma-delta cells. This fact has led researchers to speculate that lack of gamma-delta cells is the reason why humans might experience difficulty regenerating hair in areas where a wound has healed.
George Cotsarelis, M.D., served on the University of Pennsylvania research team that conducted this groundbreaking study. As lead author, Dr. Cotsarelis made the following statement in a press release issued by the Perelman School of Medicine:
“The findings help explain why humans don’t regenerate their hair after wounding. The study also points us to a way to treat wounds and grow hair,” (i).
Testing the Hypothesis: How Fgf9 Stimulates Hair Follicle Growth
Researchers tested the exciting new link between the protein Fgf9 and hair follicle growth by dividing laboratory mice into 2 groups: A control group, and a test group.
For the control group, researchers simply monitored the occurrence of hair growth during and after the wound healing process. For the test group, however, researchers reduced the expression of the Fgf9 protein. Test group mice exhibited a marked decline in hair growth, leading researchers to attribute the deficiency to a lack of Fgf9 protein.
As a follow up, researchers decided to test the opposite. When enhancing the expression of Fgf9, mice in the test group exhibited approximately 2-3 times the hair growth as those in the control group (ii). As a result, researchers have good reason to believe that Fgf9 plays a critical role in the development of new, healthy, fully functional hair follicles.
This health report has been produced by the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami. For additional information on our Institute, including hair loss evaluation and consultation services, readers are invited to contact our office directly at 1-877-443-9070.
(i) “New Hope for Baldness Cure.” Medical Daily. Accessed 11 June 2013.
(ii) See above.