Science

Rapunzel’s Hair Spell !

Most of us consider hair as a reflection of our identity. Why is it that hair has always been so special and valuable since ages? Both the genders have always been giving great importance to the way their hair looks, even though hair is just a bunch of dead cells which looks hideous when viewed under a microscope.

Hair serves the purpose of protecting our scalp against sun burn as well as holding in body heat. It also protects us from the ultraviolet radiation to a certain extent. Head hair frames the face, just as eyebrows frames the eyes.

On an average, everyone sheds around 50 to 100 hair strands on a daily basis! This is pretty normal and is called hair shedding. This is not really noticeable, because around 90% of your head hair is in the growth phase whereas around 1 -2 % is in the resting phase and 10-14 % in the falling phase. (Zenildo Santos et. al.,) So the hair that falls is generally replaced immediately. With age, this process of hair re growth slows down and hence results to hair thinning and low volume.

The term Alopecia refers to hair loss. This term is not really specific, any type of hair loss is alopecia. Now, there are various types of Alopecia. The most common ones being male and female pattern baldness also called as Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA). This condition accounts to more than 3 million cases per year in the US itself.

Coming to the research part of this post, I wanted to share the most recent and effective research work that has been carried on by a research scientist, Dr. Angela. She has been working on a very common medical condition – Hair loss.

Recent Research:

Angela Christiano, a PhD scientist at the Columbia University, working and finding new discoveries for just over 20 years and in that time span she has established herself as an important research scientist in the hair loss research domain. Today, Christiano is involved in working on a potential future treatment option for Alopecia Areata, more importantly Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis, these two being the most severe forms of alopecia and are conditions that are irreversible to date.

To understand this work, lets get a quick understanding about the hair growth cycle:

Hair growth follows a cycle during which, each hair strand moves from one phase to another.

a.) Anagen: Growth Phase

b.) Catagen: Involuting phase

c.) Telogen: Resting phase

  • JAK inhibitors: Most forms of hair loss are due to the incompetence of the hair follicles to enter Anagen phase of the hair growth cycle after being arrested in the Telogen phase. The basis of Dr. Christiano’s research on JAK inhibitors is to target the pathways that can be selectively modulated to induce entry into the Anagen phase. Her present results from the research shows that topical application of small-molecule inhibitors of the Janus kinase (JAK) – signal transducer on mouse and human skin resulted in a rapid onset of the Anagen phase. In cases of Alopecia Areata, the enzymes that are responsible for making the hair follicles dormant are also targeted by the JAK inhibitors leading to subsequent hair growth.

Dr. Christiano’s start up Vixen Pharmaceuticals worked on developing 2 different JAK inhibitors that have already been approved by the FDA as of now for the treatment of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and also for a skin cancer  – myelofibriosis.

Vixen Pharmaceuticals was then acquired by Aclaris Therapeutics recently. The company now plans on developing JAK inhibitors for treating Alopecia.

  • Christiano’s second start up, Rapunzel, targets on hair transplantation that is transplanting hair from one part of the body to the scalp. But none of us have enough hair on the body to be transplanted to the scalp. And this was her next aim. – Growing hair in her lab!

Dr. Christiano’s lab made that possible too! They found out that hair could be grown on a growth factor induced 3-D scaffold of a tissue culture. They were successful growing rat hair and are very positive about growing human hair in their lab too.

Everybody goes through temporary hair loss at least once in their lifetime. The most common reasons of hair fall include an unbalanced diet, increasing stress levels, consistent use of hair styling products, heating devices (hair dryer, straightening irons, curling rods etc), certain hormonal changes, high fever and so on. This is very common and it could be controlled by using certain natural and homemade remedies.

For more information on some really effective homemade remedies, please click on Want thicker and fuller hair naturally?

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