Severe hair loss is pretty common in people of old age. It turns out that some stem cells are to be blamed for this, at least, according to two new studies.
During the normal course of life, stem cells that are found in the hair follicles in the scalp could start to accumulate some mutations and would render themselves to shrink as a result. That was according to a study that was published in the Science Journal last week.
Hiroyuki Matsumura of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University and his colleagues analyzed scalp skin samples from young females to old women aged 22-70.
He and his team discovered that the cells in older women have more apparent mutations than in younger females. Moreover, their hair follicles were also smaller as well compared to the young ones, at least, on average.
The XVII Collagen (COL17Al), the researchers identified, could be the main culprit in the thinning of hair in old people. Damage to the DNA that could lead to the depletion of the said collagen may trigger follicular shrinking and cellular shedding.
The same group of researchers who engineered some mice to produce extra COL17Al, however, did not experience either the loss of hair or follicle shrinkage when compared to their wild mouse counterparts.
In another study, a group of researchers at the University of Colorado discovered that the stem cells in our hair follicles can go dormant as we age. However, deleting a certain gene that triggers the production of the Foxc1 protein could avoid this process of dormancy to happen.
Co-author Rui Yi said that they’ve found out that the cells actually know when to stop the process of dormancy.
She added that if they can interfere the production of the said gene, or take that particular factor away from the stem cells found in the hair follicles, they can potentially shorten the dormancy period and may induce the stem cells to continue to proliferate, thus stimulating hair growth.