New research kindles hope of baldness cure
May 17, 2007 - 5:18:41 PM

Washington May 17 - US Scientists who helped create new hair cells on the skin of wounded mice have raised hopes for the cure of baldness.

As part of the experiment, a University of Pennsylvania team removed small sections of the outer skin layer, or epidermis, from mice. This appeared to trigger molecular processes similar to those used in embryonic development, which included the production of hair follicles.

The scientists discovered that a particular gene important in wound healing, called wnt appeared to play a role in the production of new hair follicles. When they blocked the action of the wnt gene, they found that no hair follicles were produced. However, when the action of the gene was boosted several hair follicles were produced, with the skin layer eventually being indistinguishable from surrounding areas.

The human head comes equipped with 100,000 tiny hair follicles, from each of which grow a single hair. These follicles are produced by the embryo in the first stages of pregnancy, and it was believed that once damaged, they could never be replaced.

The online edition of BBC News reported that the research team, writing in the journal Nature, said hair growth can actually be encouraged using a single gene.

'Now the findings of the study shows convincingly that under the conditions peculiar to the wound-healing environment, the highly complex hair follicle can be created anew from apparently unremarkable cells of the healing epidermis and its underlying dermis -' a British expert said.

Dr. Rishi Parashar, consultant dermatologist at New Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, 'It is a hugely exciting and promising development but we must be cautious as many studies are published everyday offering hope to millions of patients but very few stand the test of time.'

'We must also understand that mice skin and human skin are different and the results produced in mice skin may not be reproducible in humans - although I hope for all my bald patients that I am proven wrong,' he added.

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