Bye-bye baldness? California researchers’ find could help end hair loss, speed wound healing

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — New research into factors that control the life and death of hair follicle cells could help people grappling with hair-loss afflictions, as well as wound healing, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

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The research centers on the role of the TGF-beta protein in controlling both cell division and cell death of hair follicles, a source of stem cells, according to a UCR article published Monday.

While most cells in the human body perform specific, lifelong functions determined during embryonic development - meaning a blood cell cannot transform into a nerve cell, and vice versa – hair follicle stem cells act more like blank Scrabble tiles and can morph into other types of cells, providing a level of adaptability that shows promise for repairing damaged tissue or organs, researchers stated.

“In science fiction when characters heal quickly from injuries, the idea is that stem cells allowed it,” UC Riverside mathematical biologist and study co-author Qixuan Wang stated.

“In real life, our new research gets us closer to understanding stem cell behavior, so that we can control it and promote wound healing,” Wang added, noting that TGF-beta performs the dual roles of both activating cells to produce new life and orchestrating “apoptosis, the process of cell death.”

According to Wang’s team, if they can determine more precisely how the protein activates cell division and how the chemical communicates with other genes, it may be possible to activate follicle stem cells and generate hair growth, SciTechDaily reported.

Read more detail on Wang’s team’s research in Biophysical Journal.