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Doctors are investigating why our hair turns gray
As men get older, they often experience hair loss and gray hair problems. Of course, there are also men who lose their hair at a young age and develop baldness early on. Researchers have now found out which cells cause hair to grow at all and why hair eventually turns gray.
In their investigation, the doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center found out what the mechanism is behind balding and the development of gray hair. The researchers published the results of their study in the journal "Genes & Development".
Breakthrough in combating hair loss achieved?
When it comes to hair, most men are secretly vain. Hardly any man wishes that he had gray hair at a young age or even developed a bald head. It is therefore hardly surprising that scientists and doctors have been looking for ways and means to prevent hair loss for a long time. Experts now seem to have made a breakthrough in combating gray hair and hair loss.
Researchers find out which cells are involved in hair growth
The researchers actually wanted to find out how certain types of tumors form. “In the end, however, we were able to find out why hair turns gray and which cells are involved in hair growth,” explains Dr. Lu Le of UT Southwestern in a press release. This knowledge could help to develop ways in the future to deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles even in problem patients. So the cosmetic difficulties with the hair should then be corrected.
What does KROX20 do?
The researchers found that a protein called KROX20 is actually associated with nerve development. In this case, the protein causes skin cells to eventually become hair, the experts say. The cells then produce a certain protein (SCF), which is essential for hair pigmentation.
What happens when SCF and KROX20 are removed?
When the experts deleted the so-called SCF gene in the hair progenitor cells in mouse models, the hair of the animals became white as a result. When they removed the KROX20-producing cells, hair no longer grew and the mice eventually became bald.
Research into neurofibromatosis type 1 actual research goal
The researchers found the new explanation for balding while studying a disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1. This rare genetic disease causes tumors to grow, the researchers explain.
It was previously unknown which cells in the hair follicles produce SCF
Researchers already knew that stem cells contained in hair follicles are involved in the formation of hair. In addition, it was known that SCF is important for pigmented cells, explains author Dr. Le. What was previously unknown in detail is the effect of stem cells on the basis of hair follicles and which cells in the hair follicles produce SCF.
More research is needed
If cells with functioning KROX20 and SCF are present, they interact with pigment-producing melanocyte cells and grow into pigmented hair. Without SCF, the mice's hair was gray and later turned white, the scientists explain. Without KROX20-producing cells, no hair grew at all. Further research is now to investigate whether impairments of KROX20 and the SCF gene lead to gray hair or thinning of the hair as it ages, says Dr. (as)