Scientists may have discovered a cure for baldness by discovering a body-healing protein called TGF-beta, which could bring dead hair follicles back to life, as well as speed wound healing and help people with various problems.
Some degree of baldness will affect approximately 85 percent of men during their lifetimes, as well as an estimated 40 percent of women who also experience noticeable hair loss – and many of them aren’t happy about it.
A cure for baldness has often been referred to as the “holy grail” of medical cures, not only because it has been elusive, but it promises to be very rewarding for the company that can provide a magic potion.
A group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, may have come closer to curing baldness than any scientists before them after they discovered that a single chemical is responsible for controlling when hair follicle cells divide or die, SciTech Daily reported.
The research was recently published in the Biophysical Journal. As part of their study on stem cell behavior, the team chose to focus on hair follicles because they are the only organ in humans that regenerates automatically and regularly, even if they haven’t been injured.
A protein known as TGF-beta can turn stem cells on or off, essentially making them grow or die. Stem cells are responsible for healing the body and they are also found in hair follicles, the Daily Star reports. Scientists believe that not only could their discovery help to cure baldness, but speed up healing in the body as well, LADBible reported.
Scientists are not sure why hair follicles kill themselves. However, they have discovered that if a cell produces a certain level of the TGF-beta protein, it triggers cell division, meaning cell growth and reproduction. But if it creates too much TGF-beta, it causes apoptosis – the death of cells – which is a normal and controlled part of the development or growth of an organism.
“Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir,” said Qixuan Wang, a mathematical biologist and co-author of the study. “When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cells, and develop into a new follicle.”
“TGF-beta has two opposite roles,” Wang added. “It helps activate some hair follicle cells to produce new life, and later, it helps orchestrate apoptosis, the process of cell death.”
“When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cells and develop into a new follicle,” Wang said.
The research suggests that it may be possible to activate follicle stem cells, and thus, stimulate hair growth if they can find a way to actively control the levels of TGF-beta. Because the body does not destroy its stem cell reservoir, theoretically, it could be stimulated to regenerate hair follicles. That would mean people who have been shiny bald for years could, in theory, see all those dormant hair follicles come back to life.
There is still a ways to go and much more research before baldness is cured, but scientists believe they’ve made a huge leap forward.
“Potentially our work could offer something to help people suffering from a variety of problems,” Wang concluded.