Science has enabled us to so much and more. We have been to moon and back, conquered the atoms and put the world at our fingertips. Each day we battle infections and defeat cancer. It is somewhat ironic to think that although we can change our faces to our will, we have yet to find a biological cure for baldness.
A research team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) recently published an article in the online open journal PLOS Biology. The lead authors Mirna Perez-Moreno and Donatello Castellana were busy working on another project when they noticed that the mice they were working on grew hair when they were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Intrigued, the authors delved deeper into this strange finding and discovered a strange phenomenon.
“We have discovered that macrophages, cells whose main function is traditionally attributed to fighting infections and wound repair, are also involved in the activation of hair-follicle stem cells in non-inflamed skin.”
Macrophages, which are an integral part of our immune system, played a major role in promoting hair growth in mice test subjects. Now the macrophages, in addition to fighting off infections, activate hair follicle stem cells in non-inflamed skin when they die. During the process of apoptosis (programmed cell death), macrophages release a factor called Wnts, which promotes hair growth.
Though these findings were found in mice, the authors are sure that they will be able to duplicate the results in humans.
“One of the current challenges in the stem cell field is to regulate the activation of endogenous stem cell pools in adult tissues to promote regeneration without the need of transplantation,” says Perez-Moreno.
For their study, the researchers used liposomes or minute oil droplets which carried the drugs to the target site and induced hair growth minimizing the need of invasive procedures like hair transplant.
The authors also believe that their study would help not only bald people but will augment stem cell researches as a whole.
“Our study underlines the importance of macrophages as modulators in skin regenerative processes, going beyond their primary function as phagocytic immune cells,” the authors said.