Study: Hair stem cells communicate

May 18, 2011

Researchers say they have discovered how hair stem cells in mice and rabbits communicate with each other to encourage coordinated regeneration - a finding that could lead to a cure for alopecia, Medical News Today reports.

Los Angeles - Researchers here say they have discovered how hair stem cells in mice and rabbits communicate with each other to encourage coordinated regeneration - a finding that could lead to a cure for alopecia, Medical News Today reports.

Working with mathematical biologists from the University of Oxford, England, researchers from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine analyzed month-to-month changes in the hair-growth patterns on shaved mice and rabbits. The changes indicate that hair follicle stem cells cycle between active and quiescent states.

Medical News Today quotes Keck School pathology professor and lead investigator Cheng-Ming Chuong, M.D., as saying, “The results are totally surprising. There is complex coordination not apparent to the naked eye.” That coordination, Dr. Choung added, is the ability of the large hair stem cell population to communicate with each other to generate robust hair growth.

According to the study, improving the environment for this kind of stem cell communication could lead to a cure for alopecia, which occurs in humans partially because stem cells in human hair follicles have lost the ability to communicate with each other.

The study’s results are so promising that USC’s Stevens Institute for Innovation has applied for a patent on the composition and method to modulate hair growth. The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, appears in the May 3 issue of the journal Science Signaling.