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Increasing follicle stem cell flexibility and hair growth

Early research in an animal model suggests it may be possible to soften hair follicle stem cells, making it easier for the cells to grow hair.

The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers, from Northwestern University in Chicago, found that hair follicle stem cells are stiff and resistant to size change, while hair germ progenitor cells are soft and periodically change size when quiescent. They also observed that during active hair growth, the hair germ cells more frequently enlarged.

Investigators were able to soften hair follicle stem cells by increasing the production of an RNA molecule known as miR-205. When scientists genetically manipulated the stem cells of mice to produce more miR-205, it promoted hair growth in young and old mice.

“[The mice] started to grow hair in 10 days,” said the study’s corresponding author Rui Yi, PhD, in a press release. “These are not new stem cells being generated. We are stimulating the existing stem cells to grow hair. A lot of times we still have stem cells, but they may not be able to generate the hair.”

Dr. Yi is the Paul E. Steiner Research Professor of Pathology and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Our study demonstrates the possibility of stimulating hair growth by regulating cell mechanics,” said Dr. Yi. “Because of the potential to deliver microRNA by nanoparticles directly into the skin, next we will test whether topically delivered miR-205 can stimulate hair growth first in mice. If successful, we will design experiments to test whether this microRNA can promote hair growth potentially in humans.”


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