“The hair is real. It’s the head that’s a fake.”
“Until it’s gone, hair is easy to take for granted. But a close look reveals the hair follicle to be one of the most interesting organs of the body. It’s most unusual feature: It is self-regenerating.
Hair follicles live just below the top layer of the skin. You have them all over your body except, fortunately, on your lips, palms, and soles.
At the base of the follicle is the hair bulb, where wildly growing matrix cells become hair.
A little farther up the follicle is the mysterious feature called the bulge. That’s where follicle stem cells live. When they get the right set of chemical signals, these self-renewing cells divide. They don’t divide like normal cells, in which both halves become new cells that keep splitting and developing. Only one half of the follicle stem cell does that. The other half becomes a new stem cell, and stays put for future regeneration.
Hair growth goes through several distinct stages:
- Anagen. The growth phase of hair. An unknown signal tells folliclestem cells to do their thing. Next, the permanent part of the follicle — the dermal papilla — gives the “go” signal to hair matrix cells. Those cells grow wildly and become pigmented, creating a new hair shaft. At any given time, 90% of hair cells are in this stage.
- Exogen. The new hair shaft pushes the old, dead hair shaft out of the skin. The old hair falls out.
- Anagen finished. The new hair extends beyond the surface of the skin and keeps growing. The hair shaft fully matures.
- Catagen. The lower two-thirds of the follicle shrivels up and is destroyed. The dermal papilla remains attached to the regressing follicle.
- Telogen. The withered follicle rests. It waits for a signal telling it to start all over again.
Losing hair is part of a normal cycle of growth and replacement. Hair follicles go through the growth and resting cycle in a nonsynchronized fashion. But sometimes things go wrong.” From WebMD.
So what is being done to prevent hair loss?
Of course there is Minoxidil (Rogaine) for both men and women and Finasteride (Propecia) for men.
There is also hair transplant and scalp reduction surgery but what else is being worked on in the labs throughout the world?
Some Labs are getting shutdown follicles to regenerate and are attempting to manipulate stem cells in a test tube.
Some are taking hair follicles out of the human scalp and growing them with dermal papilla cells. If the cultures grow it might be possible to recombine with the skin cells to form new follicles. This would help in hair transplantation. This research is being conducted by a company called Aderans which is also a leading wig manufacturer based in Japan.
There is a process called sonic hedgehog making some progress in the research area. A company named Curis is trying to tame sonic hedgehog for hair growth. It is attempting to convert resting hair into growing hair. Sonic Hedgehog is a protein that is encoded by the SHH (Sonic Hedgehog) gene.
These research methods may be years away from success, but they give hope that people with hair loss may someday no longer have to deal with baldness or thinning hair. Where there is research is ALWAYS hope.