As strange and painful as it may seem, according to a new study published on April 9 in the journal Cell, plucking hairs may be a good way to fight baldness. It seems that not only the removed hairs grow back, but new ones sprout nearby.
The team of researchers was led by Cheng-Ming Chuong, Principal Investigator of USC (University of Southern California) Stem Cell and their research was based on the “quorum sensing” principle. The researchers have shown that plucking 200 hairs in a particular density and pattern can generate 1.200 hairs to grow. The experiment was conducted on a mouse.
The study began a couple of years ago when Chen came from Taiwan at USC. Being a dermatologist he already knew that hair injury has an impact on the adjacent environment. Chen supposed that this environment could influence hair regeneration so it could be used to generate extra hairs.
Chen worked together with Arthur Lander of the University of California. The underlying principle of “quorum sensing” is what the regenerative process relies on. “Quorum sensing” refers at the way in which a system responds to a stimuli which only affect some of the member, not all of them. In this study this principles applies in the case of the hair follicle system which responds to the removal of some hairs although not all the follicles are pulled out.
From a circular patch of mouse skin the investigators plucked 200 hairs. The circle had a medium density of 5mm in diameter. Scientist also tried low-density pluck (6mm circle), but the regeneration did not occur. In higher density pluck they tried extracting the same number of hairs from a patch of 4mm but only 780 new hairs grew. Neither pulling out all the hairs was useful. All the hairs grew back but there were no extra hairs. So the best results were obtained when the circles had diameters between 3 and 5mm. This led to a regeneration between 450 and 1.300 hairs.
The study observed how the level of inflammation under the skin was adjusted to the intensity of the damage. This influenced the regeneration level through a series of immune responses and chemical signaling.
Cheng-Ming Chuong said that their findings could help with treating a form of hair loss called alopecia. He also added that this study is a good example of how basic research can generate findings with possible translational value.
Image Source: Merck Manuals