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Coaxing New Hair Follicles to Grow

It may be possible to grow new hair follicles, according to
scientists studying mice.

The scientists -- who included George Cotsarelis, MD, associate professor of
dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania -- report their findings in
Nature.

They noticed that in lab tests, adult mice grew new hair follicles in skin
healing from wounds.

Cotsarelis and colleagues found that the mice's wound-healing process
involved the release of proteins called wnts.

Those proteins made mature skin cells that don't normally make hair during
wound healing behave like embryonic skin cells, giving rise to new hair
follicles.

"We showed that wound healing triggered an embryonic state in the skin
which made it receptive to receiving instructions from wnt proteins,"
Cotsarelis says in a University of Pennsylvania news release.

The researchers note that the wound-healing process may be a window of
opportunity for mammals to generate new hair follicles via wnt proteins.

If so, that process might inspire new treatments for hair loss, wounds, and
other degenerative skin disorders, write the researchers.

"We've found that we can influence wound healing with wnts or other
proteins that allow the skin to heal in a way that has less scarring and
includes all the normal structures of the skin, such as hair follicles and oil
glands, rather than just a scar," says Cotsarelis in the news release.

The study didn't involve any tests on people.

Cotsarelis and his University of Pennsylvania colleague, Mayumi Ito, PhD,
are listed as inventors on a patent application related to new hair follicle
creation, notes the University of Pennsylvania, which owns that patent.

Cotsarelis also co-founded and has ties to a start-up company called
Follica, which licensed the patent, states the University of Pennsylvania.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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