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The Chemical That Controls Life and Death in Hair Follicles

By: April Carson

It's also possible that the hair loss is due to a single chemical's ability to regulate when hair follicle cells divide and die. This finding may not only treat baldness; it might also help speed wound healing because follicles are a source of stem cells.

For years, scientists have been trying to find the key to hair loss. Now, it seems they may have found the answer in a single chemical.

Every human cell has an established shape and function that is fixed during embryogenesis. A blood cell, for example, cannot transform into a nerve cell or vice versa. Stem cells, on the other hand, are like blank Scrabble tiles; they may change into different kinds of cells.

The hair follicle is one type of stem cell that can regenerate indefinitely. These cells are found in the base of the hair follicle and they divide to produce new cells that push older cells up the follicle shaft. Eventually, the old cells reach the surface of the skin and die.

They have a high pain threshold, and their adaptability allows them to help with the repair of damaged tissue or organs.

The hair follicle is an amazing example of the power of stem cells. These cells are able to regenerate indefinitely, which helps to keep our hair healthy and strong. Additionally, their adaptability allows them to help with the repair of damaged tissue or organs. This makes them an invaluable tool in the medical field and researchers are constantly working to find new ways to utilize their power.

“In science fiction, when characters heal fast from injuries, it's because stem cells allowed it,” said Qixuan Wang of the UC Riverside mathematical biologist and study co-author. “Our new research gets us one step closer to understanding stem cell behavior so we may regulate and encourage wound healing," he added. This research was led by Jianbo Yin, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematics at UC Riverside.

In response to injuries, the liver and stomach regenerate. Wang's team, on the other hand, examined hair follicles since they are the only human organ that regrows automatically and periodically even without damage.

The team discovered how a particular protein, TGF-beta, controls the hair-follicle cell division and formation of new cells, or orchestrates its own demise — eventually resulting in the follicle's death.

"Our study provides the first molecular evidence that TGF-beta plays a dual role in hair follicles, as an inducer of cell proliferation during the early stage of hair regeneration and as an executor of cell death during the late stage," Wang said.

The findings have implications for studying other organs and for regenerative medicine.

TGF-beta has two distinct functions. It aids in the activation of certain hair follicle cells, which leads to new life, and it subsequently aids in the orchestration of apoptosis, or cell death.”

Like many chemicals, its quantity makes all the difference. When a cell generates a specific amount of TGF-beta, it becomes activated. Excess of it induces apoptosis.

Nobody knows why follicles commit suicide. It's possible that it's a hereditary ability passed down from animals with fur who are shedding to survive harsh summer conditions or to hide. “Even though a hair follicle commits suicide, its stem cell reservoir is never destroyed. When the remaining stem cells realize they have been activated to heal, they divide in order to generate new cells and form a new follicle,” Wang added.

Scientists may be able to figure out more precisely how TGF-beta activates cell division, and how the chemical communicates with other significant genes, which might assist in promoting hair growth by reactivating follicle stem cells.

Regenerating hair follicles is necessary for perfect wound healing because many animals, including humans, have hairy skin. One day, being able to better regulate TGF-beta levels may be used to treat baldness, which affects millions of people all around the world.

“We could potentially be able to provide assistance to those who are suffering from a range of issues as a result of this study,” Wang added.

TGF-beta is a chemical that has long been known to play an important role in the life cycle of hair follicles. Wang and his team's recent discovery sheds new light on precisely how TGF-beta activates cell division, and how the chemical communicates with other significant genes, which might assist in promoting hair growth by reactivating follicle stem cells.

The study appears in the journal Nature Communications.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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