Collagen, Japanese scientists and a new science of hair loss

26/02/2016

Molecular structure of structural protein collagen - main component of connective tissue

Hair loss is not due to one trigger, as we often chatted about on this blog. Recently in Japan scientists have found another reason why people may be suffering from hair loss which – surprise, surprise – is closely linked to aging. The good news is these findings may lead to new hair loss treatment s in the future.

Basics of the scientific studies

Emi Nishimura, a biologist at Tokyo Medical and Dental University led the study focussing on stem cells in hair follicles and how they are damaged as we grow older. As is traditional with this kind of research, the original experiments began by looking at parallel effect in live animals. The scientists found that a fundamental factor found in age related DNA triggers the destruction of a protein called Collagen 17A1.

This reaction in turn triggers the transformation of the stem cells in the hair into epidermal keratinocytes. Now damaged these stem cells increasingly turn themselves into skin cells instead of hair cells and eventually into scurf with the passing of time.

Collagen levels low in women over 55

With this new knowledge, the team in Japan then analysed the follicles in women aged 22 to 70. The results tended to mirror the findings in the earlier experiments with animals – in females over 55 follicles were smaller and the levels of Collagen 17A1 were lower.

Possible new hair loss treatments in the future?

Nishimura said to Sciencemag.org that this could be hopeful for hair loss sufferers as the replacement of Collagen 17A1 could be a future treatment to explore. However, she did add as a proviso that it was unlikely that stem cell depletion was likely to have other triggers other than Collagen 17A1 alone.

However, Nishimura is still optimistic about future treatments. He said “We are hoping to develop medicine to prevent the depletion of collagen in hair follicles and thus the thinning of hair within the next five to 10 years.”

Widely accepted reviews

The results from other similar studies taking place globally suggest that more attention should be paid to cellular and molecular mechanisms of stem cell regulation when fighting the war against thinning hair and hair loss.

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