• Scientists on the cusp of developing cream to cure baldness and stop greying 
  • Researchers were investigating how certain tumours form when they found cure
  • They discovered the identity of the cells that produce hair and turn it grey  

Kate Pickles For The Daily Mail

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It was discovered by accident but could be the answer to millions of men’s prayers.

Scientists are on the cusp of developing a cream or ointment to cure baldness or stop hair turning grey.

The cells that make hair and turns it grey was discovered by researchers as they explored how certain cancer tumours form.

Scientists are on the cusp of developing a cream or ointment to cure baldness or stop hair turning grey after stumbling upon the discovery while investigating cancer tumours 

The breakthrough could one day identify possible treatments for balding and hair greying and also explain why we age.

Dr Lu Le, professor of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Texas, said the chance discovery could lead to an effective treatment.

‘Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumours form, we ended up learning why hair turns grey and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair.

‘With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems.’

The study, published in the Genes Development journal, found the protein called KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, turned on in skin cells that become the hair shaft.

These hair precursor, or progenitor, cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) which is essential for hair pigmentation.

When scientists deleted the SCF gene in the hair progenitor cells in mice, their hair turned white. When they deleted the KROX20-producing cells, no hair grew and the mice became bald.

They discovered the identity of the cells that produce hair and turn it grey. The breakthrough could one day identify possible treatments for balding, greying and also explain why we age

Professor Le made the discovery while studying a disorder called Neurofibromatosis Type 1, a rare genetic disease that causes tumours to grow on nerves.

Scientists already knew stem cells contained in a bulge area of hair follicles are involved in making hair and that SCF is important for pigmented cells.

What they did not know in detail was what happens after those stem cells move down to the base, or bulb, of hair follicles and which cells in the hair follicles produce SCF – or that cells involved in hair shaft creation make the KROX20 protein.

If cells with functioning KROX20 and SCF are present, they move up from the bulb, interact with pigment-producing melanocyte cells, and grow into pigmented hairs.

But without SCF, the hair in mouse models was grey, and then turned white with age and without KROX20-producing cells, no hair grew.

Future research will try to find out if the KROX20 in cells and the SCF gene stop working properly as people age, leading to the greying and hair thinning seen in older people, as well as in male pattern baldness. 

 

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