Pathway activation could restart hair follicle growth

December 10, 2013

Researchers have identified a molecular pathway that, when activated, can stimulate hair growth in dormant hair follicles.

 

Researchers have identified a molecular pathway that, when activated, can stimulate hair growth in dormant hair follicles.

Scientists with Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, looked at Wnt proteins - molecular messengers that deliver information between cells and activate signaling through the intracellular molecule beta-catenin, according to a news release. Hair growth was prevented when Wnt signaling was disrupted in an animal model with an inhibitor Dkk1, investigators noted, but stem cells were maintained in dormant hair follicles. The Wnt/beta-catenin pathway resumed normal function when Dkk1 was removed. Stem cells were also activated and hair growth was restored.

The researchers also discovered that the Wnt/beta-catenin pathway is active in regions of the skin that don’t have hair, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and the tongue. It is also active between hair follicles on the skin’s surface.

“Our results suggest that therapeutics capable of decreasing levels of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in the skin could potentially be used to block growth of unwanted hair, and/or to treat skin tumors,” senior author Sarah Millar, Ph.D., professor, departments of dermatology and of cell and developmental biology, stated in the news release. “Conversely, if delivered in a limited, safe and controlled way, agents that activate Wnt signaling might be used to promote hair growth in dormant hair follicles in conditions such as male pattern baldness.”

Dr. Millar also noted more research is necessary to better understand the pathway.

Study findings were published Dec. 5 in Cell Stem Cell.