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Post details: More than cure for baldness!

17/05/07

Permalink 10:53:19 pm, by Tom, 314 words, 1951 views   English (UK)
Categories: Information

More than cure for baldness!

You may have seen reports in the press over the past few days that scientists working with mice at the University of Pennsylvania might have found a cure for baldness.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6661849.stm

Unfortunately the headlines (though to be fair not the news reports themselves) tend to trivialize this important research, and may even lead some to question whether using mice in such work is ethically defensible.

For those with a subscription the original article is at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v447/n7142/full/nature05766.html.

The real significance this paper is that for the first time it confirms that following wounding non-hair-follicle stem cells located in the epidermis can naturally regenerate hair follicles, and that a group of proteins known as the Wnt proteins are vital to the process. Current methods for treating large wounds promote tissue repair to close the wound and undoubtedly save many lives, but this new research indicates that they also hamper regeneration of complex structures such as hair follicles and sweat glands that are found in healthy skin. It should now be possible to develop new techniques and treatments, perhaps involving activation of Wnt proteins, to heal serious wounds more effectively and reduce scarring. Such treatments would be of great benefit to burns victims and other patients who have suffered extensive skin damage.

But wound treatment is not the only field that may soon benefit from this research. Many groups of scientists are attempting to grow tissues and organs in vitro from stem cells for use in transplants and in scientific research, including use as a replacement for animals in pre-clinical toxicological testing. This research indicates that activating tissue regeneration processes normally induced by wounding might assist the development of complex tissues, and ultimately help to produce whole organs in vitro.

And yes, it may also help cure baldness.

Paul Browne

Stand Up For Science

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