Exploratory research has uncovered a new pathway linked to hair follicle dormancy. Promising results have shown how disrupting this process can lead to hair growth.
Dr Angela Christiano, a professor of dermatology, discovered previously unknown cells that keep hair follicles in a resting state.
Based at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr Christiano demonstrated how inhibiting the activity of these cells reawakened dormant follicles.
To gain a deeper understanding of Dr Christiano’s work, one must be well-versed in the hair growth cycle.
Previously, the search for new drugs that reawaken dormant hair follicles had been restrictive.
This is because scientists had focused on the same pathways that have already produced positive results.
Namely, researchers had zoomed in on the pathways that paved the way for finasteride and minoxidil, which are effective hair loss treatments.
Now though, Dr Christiano and her colleagues have discovered a new pathway called JAK-STAT, that is active inside stem cells of resting hair follicles.
They identified a substance known as Oncostatin M that keeps the follicles in a state of dormancy.
The researchers demonstrated how JAK inhibitors applied on mice can reawaken resting hair follicles.
Targeting the cells responsible for making Oncostatin M – aptly named trochophages, after the Greek word trich for hair – the hair cycle can be manipulated.
“These new pathways may lead to new treatments for both men and women suffering from hair loss,” said Dr Christiano.
“Especially if treatments are used topically, that could avoid the related side effects seen with finasteride and minoxidil.”
Dr Christanio and her team have taken advantage of 3D printing to create plastic moulds akin to hair follicles.
They utilised hair cells from volunteers to place in the moulds, mixed with JAK inhibitors.
After three weeks, human hair follicles appeared and started creating hair.