Stem Cell

Stem cell researchers discover promising lead in quest for hair regrowth

Untreated mouse skin showing no hair growth (left) compared to mouse skin treated with the drug UK5099 (right) showing hair growth.

Source/UCLA Broad Stem Cell Center/Nature Cell Biology

The ever-elusive cure for thinning hair, a concern that plagues both men and women, may have taken a taken a tentative step forward with the results of a new research study that focuses specifically on the role of follicle stem cells.

In new findings published in Nature Cell Biology, UCLA researchers revealed the discovery of a new way to activate hair regrowth by focusing on the unique metabolism of “quiescent” hair follicle stem cells. Although long-lived, these stem cells are normally inactive until the start of a new hair cycle, when they quickly spur regrowth in the anagen phase.

The UCLA study authors explain how the metabolism of hair follicle stem cells — the way they divide, produce energy and respond to their environment — differs from other cells of the skin:

As hair follicle stem cells consume the nutrient glucose — a form of sugar — from the bloodstream, they process the glucose to eventually produce a metabolite called pyruvate. The cells then can either send pyruvate to their mitochondria — the part of the cell that creates energy — or can convert pyruvate into another metabolite called lactate.

Converting pyruvate into lactate could be the key to promoting more active follicles.

“Our observations about hair follicle stem cell metabolism prompted us to examine…