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Stem cell 'talk' may spur hair growth

New Haven, Conn. — A discovery by researchers at Yale University could lead to new treatments for baldness, Medical News Today reports.

Investigators identified stem cells within the skin’s fatty layer and showed that molecular signals from these cells were necessary to spur hair growth in mice, according to research published in the Sept. 2 issue of the journal Cell.

Medical News Today quotes lead author Valerie Horsley, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale, as saying, “If we can get these fat cells in the skin to ‘talk’ to the dormant stem cells at the base of hair follicles, we might be able to get hair to grow again.”

Dr. Horsley’s team observed that when hair dies, the layer of fat in the scalp that comprises most of the skin’s thickness shrinks. When hair growth begins, the fat layer expands in a process called adipogenesis. Investigators found that adipose precursor cells — stem cells involved in creation of new fat cells — were required for hair regeneration in mice. They also found that these cells produce platelet-derived growth factors, which are needed to produce hair growth.

The researchers’ next step is to identify other signals produced by adipose precursor stem cells that may play a role in regulating hair growth, and to determine whether these same signals are required for human hair growth.

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