New Study Uncovers the Main Cause of Gray Hair: Stuck Stem Cells in Hair Follicles
Gray hair has long been associated with aging, but a new study from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine has shed new light on the causes of gray hair. The study focuses on the unique properties of melanocyte stem cells (McSCs) found in hair follicles, which are responsible for producing pigments that give our hair its color. Researchers discovered that the loss of function in these cells is the cause of graying hair. Although genetics, chronic stress, or serious illness can still be contributing factors for gray hairs, the study found that McSCs get stuck in the stem cell compartment called the hair follicle bulge as hair ages, sheds, and then repeatedly grows back. The stem cells, trapped in the hair follicle bulge, are unable to age or migrate, thus depriving them of the necessary signal for maturation and pigment production.
The NYU research team's previous work demonstrated that the maturation and pigmentation production of McSCs required the activation of WNT signaling. The study revealed that McSCs experienced significantly lower exposure to WNT signaling in the hair follicle bulge, compared to the hair germ compartment located directly beneath it, with a difference of trillions of times. The team plans to explore potential means of restoring the motility of McSCs or physically moving them back to their germ compartment where they can produce pigment, thus preventing hair from turning gray.
The study's lead investigator, Dr. Qi Sun, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health, explained that their findings raise the possibility that a similar fixed-positioning of melanocyte stem cells might occur in humans. Comprehending these mechanisms may offer the chance to develop remedies for hair color-associated ailments, like whitening, as well as aesthetic uses.
Although further investigation is required, there are actions you can take to decelerate the process of graying and sustain healthy hair. The study may pave the way for future treatments to reverse or prevent gray hair by helping jammed cells move again between developing hair follicle compartments.
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