In a feat that might help pave the way to restoring hair on patients with skin wounds from burns, injuries or surgery, scientists report regrowing hair on damaged skin in mice.
In their experiments with the rodents, the researchers found that activating what's called the sonic hedgehog cell signalling pathway triggered communication between cells called fibroblasts.
Drug targets for hair growth
These cells secrete collagen, a protein that plays a major role in maintaining the shape and strength of skin and hair.
The sonic hedgehog pathway is very active during the early stages of growth in the womb, when hair follicles are formed, but is not active in wounded skin in adults. This may be why hair follicles don't grow in damaged skin, the researchers said.
"Our results show that stimulating fibroblasts through the sonic hedgehog pathway can trigger hair growth not previously seen in wound healing," said study senior investigator Mayumi Ito. She's an associate professor in the department of dermatology at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
However, animal research frequently doesn't pan out in humans.
It had been believed that as part of the healing process, scarring and collagen build-up in damaged skin prevented hair regrowth.
"Now we know that it's a signalling issue in cells that are very active as we develop in the womb, but less so in mature skin cells as we age," Ito said in an NYU news release.
The team said it will continue its research in an effort to identify possible drug targets for hair regrowth.
The study was published recently in the journal Nature Communications.
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