Hair loss is a major issue for a lot of people. It can have a profound impact on our mental well being and our mental health directly affects our physical health. Millions of men and women suffer from hair loss in the US, and there is still no foolproof way to combat it. Hair supplements, a changed diet, hair transplantation or topical medications are a few methods, but new research from the UCLA shows that stem cells may hold an important answer to the problem.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are different from other cells since they can develop into different kinds of cells in the body. They work as a part of the body’s repair system, by assisting where they are needed. After a stem cell divides, the new cells can either turn into other stem cells, or into a certain type of cell – a blood cell or a brain cell for example. Thanks to this ability, they offer a unique potential for developing treatments against different diseases.
How Hair Loss Works
To understand hair loss, you have to understand the hair growth cycle. This cycle consists of four stages: the anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen. They correspond to the growing phase; the transitional phase when the growing stops; the resting phase when the hair follicle is dormant; and the shedding phase in which dead hair will fall out.
The phases are not the same for everyone. If you have a shorter growing phase and a longer shedding phase, naturally you will experience hair thinning. However, there are natural ways to stimulate your hair growth, such as a scalp massage, hair masks, a more varied diet and natural supplements.
What the New Study Says
The study was published in Nature Cell Biology in August of 2017. It specifically looked into the relationship between stem cells and hair growth. Hair follicle stem cells, HFSC, are cells inside our hair follicles. Normally, these are dormant, but when the hair reaches its growth phase, the anagen phase, they wake up and start producing new hair. That is, if they work as they should. If something interrupts the hair growth cycle, the hair follicle will produce less hair than what is shed during the same period.
Here comes the interesting part – the metabolic process of the HFSC’s turn glucose in the body into something called puryvate. This is a kind of acid that is also available as a supplement, as it is believed to contributing to weight loss and fighting high cholesterol. The body will either send this compound to the mitochondria of the stem cell, where it harvests energy – or it will convert it into yet another compound – lactate. The group of researchers behind he study were trying to see if they could decrease the amount of puryvate that went to the mitochondria, and instead increase the amount that turned into lactate. The theory was that lactate would boost hair growth.
The team performed the tests on mice, by altering their genetics. In the mice whose cells were altered to not produce any lactate, the HFSC remained dormant and did not produce any hair. In the mice whose cells produced more lactate than normal levels, the HFSC increased in activity and produced more hair. Patents for drugs that will cause stem cells to increase the production of lactate have been filed, however, the drugs have not yet been been tested on humans.
When it comes to healthy hair growth we recommend going for a natural solution that provides your hair with all the essential nutrients it needs.