Activating Hair Follicle Stem Cells, the secret to hair growth?

That day might come sooner than we think thanks to a CIRM-funded study by UCLA scientists.

Published on the 15th of September 2017 in Nature Cell Biology, the UCLA team reported a new way to boost hair growth that could eventually translate into new treatments for hair loss. The study was spearheaded by senior authors Heather Christofk and William Lowry, both professors at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA.

Christofk and Lowry were interested in understanding the biology of hair follicle stem cells (HFSCs) and how their metabolism (the set of chemical changes required for a cell to sustain itself) plays a role in hair growth. HFSCs are adult stem cells that live in the hair follicles of our skin. They are typically inactive but can quickly “wake up” and actively divide when a new hair growth cycle is initiated. When HFSCs fail to activate, hair loss occurs.

A closer look at HFSCs in mice revealed that these stem cells are dependent on the products of the glycolytic pathway, a metabolic pathway that converts the nutrient glucose into a metabolite called pyruvate to create energy, to stimulate their activation. The HFSCs have a choice, they can either give the pyruvate to their mitochondria to produce more energy, or they can break down the pyruvate into another metabolite called lactate.

The scientists found that if they tipped the balance towards producing more lactate, the HFSCs activated and induced hair growth. On the other hand, if they blocked lactate production, HFSCs couldn’t activate and new hair growth was blocked.

hair-follicle-image-for-press-release

Image credit: UCLA Broad Stem Cell Center/Nature Cell Biology

In a UCLA news release, Lowry explained the novel findings of their study,

“Before this, no one knew that increasing or decreasing the lactate would have an effect on hair follicle stem cells. Once we saw how altering lactate production in the mice influenced hair growth, it led us to look for potential drugs that could be applied to the skin and have the same effect.”

 

REF:The Stem Cellar. (2017). Targeting hair follicle stem cells could be the key to fighting hair loss. [online] Available at: https://blog.cirm.ca.gov/2017/08/14/targeting-hair-follicle-stem-cells-could-be-the-key-to-fighting-hair-loss/ [Accessed 18 Sep. 2017].

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