Researchers investigating what causes hair follicles to go dormant are helping lead us toward a potential cure for baldness.
Current treatments for baldness prevent further hair loss but don’t actually increase hair growth. Several research teams are working to uncover ways to “wake up” existing dormant hair follicles. Scientists are finding that vitamin D and vitamin D receptors are crucial to continuing hair growth.
Typical hair growth follows a cycle. Hair follicles produce hair for two to six years before the hair falls out after which the follicles lie dormant for a short period. After a few weeks to a few months a new hair emerges. Sometimes the hair follicles permanently stay “asleep”, resulting in baldness.
Research so far has been encouraging. Dr Kotaro Yoshimura and colleagues at the University of Tokyo studied rats and found more stem cells became hair follicles when vitamin D was used in the final phase of growing the cells, when compared with those not treated with vitamin D. They also found that more of the follicles eventually produced hair, suggesting a potential role for vitamin D in hair transplants.
The key is the vitamin D receptor, not vitamin D alone. The receptor activates hair growth, so the next step will be to focus on activating the vitamin D receptor to possibly initiate hair growth.
Dr Yoshimura and colleagues are currently planning a clinical trial which will investigate new hair transplantation techniques involving their recent vitamin D research.
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Editors note: Updated on September 20th, 2012.