Friday, March 24, 2023

The chemical that controls life and death in hair follicles

The same chemical is important for controlling when hair follicle cells divide, and when they die. This discovery could not only cure baldness, but ultimately accelerate wound healing because follicles are a source of stem cells.

Most cells in the human body have a specific form and function that is determined during embryonic development that does not change. For example, a blood cell cannot turn into a nerve cell, or vice versa. However, stem cells are like blank tiles in a game of Scrabble; They can transform into other types of cells.

Their adaptability makes them useful for repairing damaged tissues or organs.

“In science fiction when characters recover quickly from injuries, the idea is that stem cells have allowed this,” said Qixuan Wang, a UC Riverside mathematical biologist and study co-author.

“In real life, our new research moves us closer to understanding stem cell behavior, so that we can control it and promote wound healing,” Wang said. This research has recently expanded biophysical journal Article.

The liver and stomach regenerate themselves in response to wounds. However, Wang’s team studied hair follicles because they are the only organs in humans that regenerate spontaneously and periodically, even without injury.

Researchers determined how one type of protein, TGF-beta, controls the process by which cells in hair follicles, including stem cells, divide and form new cells, or organize their own death. – eventually leading to the death of the entire hair follicle.

Wang said, “TGF-beta has two opposite roles. It helps activate certain hair follicle cells to produce new life, and subsequently, it helps modulate apoptosis, the process of cell death.” Is.”

Like many chemicals, it is the amount that makes the difference. If the cell produces a certain amount of TGF-beta, it activates cell division. Its excess causes apoptosis.

No one is entirely sure why follicles kill themselves. Some hypotheses suggest that it is an inherited trait from animals trying to avoid or camouflage hot summer temperatures.

“Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir. When living stem cells are signaled to reproduce, they divide , make new cells and develop into a new follicle,” Wang said.

If scientists can determine more precisely how TGF-beta activates cell division, and how the chemical communicates with other important genes, it may be possible to activate follicle stem cells and stimulate hair growth. could.

Since the skin of many animals, including humans, is covered with hair, the regeneration of hair follicles is needed to heal the wound. Being able to control TGF-beta levels more precisely could one day even cure baldness, which afflicts millions of people all over the world.

“Potentially our work can offer something to help people suffering from a wide variety of problems,” Wang said.

Story Source:

material provided by University of California – Riverside, Original written by Jules Bernstein. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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