The immune system is involved in hair growth

Balding, the medical name is alopecia, is a serious problem, the solution of which, for many years, figuratively speaking, dermatologists have been banging their heads. And here is a completely unexpected new way to stimulate hair growth discovered by scientists involved in the research of malignant tumors.

In the new study published in the journal PLOS Biology, scientists from the Spanish National Cancer Science Center identified the connection between macrophages /cells of the immune system that literally eat pathogenic microorganisms/ and the regenerative stem cells of the skin.

“We found that macrophages, the main function of which is traditionally thought to fight infection and heal wounds, are also involved in the activation of stem cells of hair follicles in non-inflamed skin” – this is stated by one of the co-authors of the study Mirna Perez- Moreno.

Macrophages surround the skin’s regenerative stem cells and activate them, which in turn triggers hair growth. According to the authors, this discovery can become the basis for the development of new technologies in the field of tissue regeneration, the fight against aging and oncological diseases.

“Cyclical stability of hair follicles is associated with repeated phases of their growth, attenuation and rest. Previous research has shown that the new phase of hair growth begins with the activation of stem cells located in dormant hair follicles. ” – the authors point out.

However, until now it was not known to scientists exactly how the different types of skin cells coordinate to initiate the hair growth phase.

Spanish scientists conducted experiments on mice. They noted that taking anti-inflammatory drugs stimulated fur growth in these rodents. Assuming that this stimulation could be due to the interaction of immune and stem cells, scientists began to successively study the different types of immune cells to try to clarify their influence on hair growth.

Researchers were surprised to find that some macrophages die in the skin /due to apoptosis/ and it is this death that stimulates the growth of neighboring stem cells, which is also the reason for the start of the hair growth cycle or more just the right hair.

During apoptosis, macrophages release a special class of signaling molecules called «Wnt».

Scientists found that when a specific Wnt inhibitor was introduced, hair growth was inhibited. This experiment shows the essential importance of Wnt for the activation of stem cells in hair follicles.

The scientists introduced a Wnt-inhibiting drug using liposomes, as this method of “delivering” drugs to specific cells has shown relatively good results in recent studies.

“Our research work shows the essential importance that macrophages have as modulators of regenerative processes in the skin. This function of theirs was previously unknown to biology, therefore our discovery is of particular interest,” the authors also state.

Although the study was conducted on mice, the Spanish scientists are convinced that their conclusions are fully applicable to humans.

They are also confident that in the near future their research will become the basis for developing new methods of treating baldness, especially for such a disease as alopecia areata.

It in itself is not dangerous to human health, but it causes a significant deterioration in the quality of life of those who suffer from it and they feel forced to isolate themselves from other people.

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