UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers, while studying tumors, have identified the cells that cause hair to turn gray – findings that could one day help identify possible treatments for balding and hair graying.
“When we saw the mice that we were expecting to form a tumor turned gray, we were really excited!” said Dr. Lu Le, an associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern.
The researchers found that a protein called KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, in this case turns on inside skin cells that become the hair shaft.
These cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) that the researchers showed is essential for hair pigmentation.
“When they deleted the SCF gene in the hair progenitor cells in mouse models, the animal’s hair turned white. When they deleted the KROX20-producing cells, no hair grew and the mice became bald,” according to the study.
“With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems,” Le said.
The research could also provide answers about why we age in general as hair graying and hair loss are among the first signs of aging.
“We were really excited because as a dermatologist, I treat patients with hair disease, so when we found the root cause of why hair turns gray and hair loss, we just cannot let it go,” Le said.
At Hair Revival Studio in Dallas, clients say the possibility of a treatment for gray hair and baldness sounds remarkable.
“Everyone wants to have a good head of hair. There’s a lot of confidence that comes with that,” said Brandon Stewart.