A new study, carried out by the researchers from the University of Southern California, has revealed that plucking mouse hairs in a specific pattern and density replaces the missing hairs as well as triggers regrowth. As per the study co-author Cheng-Ming Chuong, USC’s Assistant Professor of Pathology and a Principal Investigator at the Chuong Laboratory of Tissue Development and Engineering, the technique could be helpful in treating alopecia, which refers to a form of hair loss, prevalent among men. The study has been published in the journal Cell.
The idea that hair follicle injury could affect its surrounding environment was conceived by the lead author Chih-Chiang Chen. However, it was already proven by the Chuong lab that this environment can subsequently stimulate hair regrowth. The concept was tested by the collaboration of the two. A new technique was developed by Chen and his team in which 200 hair follicles were pulled out individually from a circular patch on the back of a mouse.
Initially, hairs were plucked out in a low density pattern from a patch having diameter of 6 millimeters and no hair regrowth was observed. However, a higher density plucking from circular areas of 3 and 5 millimeters diameter led to the growth of about 450 and 1,300 new hairs, including hairs outside of the plucked area. When all the hairs of the patch was plucked out it led to the regrowth of every hair but no extra hair regenerated.
Researchers suggested that the process depends on the concept of “quorum sensing” which shows how a system reacts to a stimulus which affects some but not all the members. Molecular analysis revealed that a distress signal through the proteins is triggered by the plucked hair follicles due to which the immune cells rush to the injured region. Consequently, the immune cells release molecules which order the follicles to grow hair. Researchers are trying to find out whether other parts of the body or other species, like humans, have the same communication strategy.