Immune system may hold key to curing baldness

Posted: December 27, 2014 at 5:55 am

December 26, 2014

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Brett Smith for redOrbit.com Your Universe Online

Somewhat by accident, researchers at Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have discovered a connection between the bodys immune system and hair loss a discovery that could eventually lead to a molecular treatment for baldness.

According to a new study in the journal PLOS Biology, immune system cells called macrophages, which gobble up and destroy invading pathogens, have a stimulating effect on skin stem cells and hair growth.

The restorative capability of stem cells permits skin re-growth, but various factors can cut their restorative properties or activate the uncontrolled growth seen in cancerous tissues. The new study may have further ramifications beyond potential hair loss treatment, potentially in the field of cancer research.

The connection between macrophages and hair follicles began the research on anti-inflammatory drugs. CINO scientists found that an anti-inflammatory treatment also reactivated hair growth and this accidental discovery led them to examine interactions between stem cells and cells that cause inflammation as part of an immune response.

The CINO team eventually found that when stem cells are inactive, some macrophages die as a result of process known as apoptosis. The process stimulates the release a number of factors that activate stem cells, causing hair to grow again.

The study team investigated a particular class of proteins released by macrophages called Wnt by treating macrophages with a Wnt-inhibitor substance contained within liposomes. The team saw that after they used this drug, the triggering of hair growth was delayed. Even though this study was performed in mice, the scientists believe their discovery may help in the progression of novel care treatments for hair growth in humans.

The potential for attacking one kind of cell to affect a different one might have broader uses beyond simply growing hair, the researchers said. They added that the use of liposomes for drug delivery is also a promising method of experimentation, which may have ramifications for the study of other pathologies.

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Immune system may hold key to curing baldness

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