Science has taken a further step in the understanding of what causes alopecia and other forms of baldness. With a little more research, who knows if this discovery could lead to the development of a treatment for hair loss.
Researchers from UC San Francisco have discovered that many forms of baldness could be due to the T cells, also known as Tregs (regulatory). These immune cells are typically associated with the control of inflammation, but this research shows that it also directly activates the stem cells of the skin to promote healthy growth of hair.
This means that, if T cells are defective, disrupts the ability of stem cells to regenerate hair follicles, and therefore, leads to baldness.
“Our hair follicles are constantly regenerated: when it falls a hair, a portion of the hair follicle has to grow back,” said in a statement by Michael Rosenblum, assistant professor of dermatology at UCSF and senior author of the study.
“It was thought that this was a process completely dependent on the stem cells, but it turns out that the Tregs are essential. If you delete this type of immune cell, the hair just won’t grow.”
During the study, several experiments were carried out in which they removed temporarily the Tregs in the skin of a few mice. When you shaved the hair of the mice, the hair does not grow back. “We quickly realized that we had to go deeper into this hypothesis”.
Later investigations showed that the Tregs are closely linked to the stem cells in the hair follicles which help to regrow your hair. When the follicles enter into their usual cycle of regeneration, the number of Tregs around triples.
“It is as if the stem cells of the skin and the Tregs have evolved together so that the Tregs do not only protect the stem cells against inflammation but also participate in its regenerative work,“ said Rosenblum. “Now the stem cells is completely dependent on the Tregs to know when it is time to begin to regenerate”.
To further support this hypothesis, the researchers also found that genes associated with alopecia are almost all related to the Tregs. This makes Rosenblum and his team think that to understand the role of Tregs in the growth of the hair may lead to better treatments for hair loss.
“We believe that immune cells enter the tissue to fight infection, while stem cells are there to regenerate the tissue after damage,” he added. “But what is clear is that the stem cells and immune cells have to work together to enable the regeneration“.