Researchers at Northwestern University School of Medicine have conducted a fascinating study that sheds light on the process of hair aging and opens up new possibilities for stimulating hair growth. Just as people’s joints can become stiff and difficult to move as they age, hair follicle stem cells also undergo changes that affect their ability to grow new hair.
However, this team of researchers has managed to discover a way to counteract this cellular hardening and reactivate hair growth. In their study, recently published in the prestigious journal PNAS, the scientists describe how they managed to smooth hair follicle stem cells, leading to hair growth in both young and old mice. Their approach was based on increasing the production of a specific, tiny RNA called miR-205, which plays a crucial role in relaxing cells’ stiffness.
By using genetic manipulation techniques, this team of researchers were able to stimulate the production of miR-205 in the stem cells of the hair follicle. The results were remarkable: in just 10 days, the mice began to show significant hair growth.
Using existing stem cells for hair growth
Rui Yi, corresponding author of the study and a pathology investigator at the Paul E. Steiner Research Center, as well as Professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, enthused, “These are not new stem cells that are being they are generating. We are stimulating existing stem cells to grow hair. Many times we still have stem cells, but they may not be able to generate the hair”.
To better understand the mechanisms involved, the scientists used advanced microscopy tools such as atomic force microscopy and 2-photon microscopy. These techniques allowed them to measure the rigidity of cells and observe in real time the changes in cell behavior in living animals.
This discovery is a significant step towards the development of therapies that can address ageing-related hair loss in humans. Although more research is still required to fully understand the mechanisms involved, as well as to assess efficacy and safety in humans, the results are promising and could pave the way for new strategies to combat alopecia and improve the quality of life for many people.