Research

The new research gives clues on hair loss and baldness 

One recent experiment studies why many human body parts are hairless while others are bushy. This study opens clues for male and female-pattern baldness. As you know that the tops of our heads are hairiest while soles of feet and hands are completely hairless. This is not news but a question that why do we have hair on the body but not on palms and soles?

Hair loss is a medical and social trauma for anyone who has it. It is not just restricted to one gender, anyone can experience it. Hair loss affects a huge proportion of our society and the majority of them is men. Irrespective of this, it is a distress for everyone.

Both male- and female-pattern baldness are very common hereditary forms of hair loss that affect more than 80 million people in the United States alone. For the control and prevention of hair loss, it is necessary to understand the mechanisms that regulate hair growth.

The mysterious hair growth pattern

The hair growth patterns are no very clear. Understanding the major reasons why it grows at some body parts is a heated debate. The research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia conducted a research on this.

The findings of their research are published in the journal “Cell Reports” and are available online. Click here to read it.

This research study is on WNT pathways. These mechanisms are basically signaling pathways that are pivotal during embryonic development. They keep on contributing in regenerating certain bodily tissues into adulthood.

The research team explains that the reason of selecting this pathway is that WNT signaling is critical for the development of hair follicles. Any blockage to these may cause hairless skin and if there is a switch it may add up to hair growth.

Another interest of the research team was the protein called Dickkopf 2 (DKK2). This protein is from the family of natural inhibitors that contribute to embryonic development. DKK2 is necessary to inhibit WNT pathways.

To understand the potential of WNT pathways and DKK2 in hair growth pattern, the research team designed experiments on plantar skin in mice. For those who don’t know, this skin is analogous to the underside of the human wrist.

This mouse plantar skin had high levels of DKK2 expression. The investigations tell that if genes responsible for the production of DKK2 are removed, hair may grow on sample skin. It clearly indicates that WNT is always present even in the hairless regions. It is just that its mechanism is blocked.

The next phase of the experiment

The next phase of this study was another experiment. This time the team studied the mechanism on the plantar skin of rabbits. Just as expected, there were much lower levels of DKK2 in rabbit plantar skin than mice skin. The low levels of DKK2 mean that there is no inhibition of WNT. That’s why hair grows here naturally. The team is now focused to test the same in other situations and test animals.

How does this explain baldness?

As human development takes place in the womb, hair follicles grow. But when a baby is born, he can no longer produce them. When a baby is born, he has approximately 5 million hair follicles that should last for life.

This is why your skin never grows hair again after a burn or an injury. The previous research showed the link between the DKK2 gene and male- and female-pattern baldness. The molecular mechanism behind this may shape the hair loss treatments for everyone in the future. This research is not the end. It is an opening a way for new investigations to reveal more ways for wound healing and hair growth.

 

Areeba Hussain

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. She is an author of six research papers and currently working as a research associate in a Research Lab.

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