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Gene therapy for hair loss and baldness
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Hair loss is one of the common problems faced by a large number of men and women. There are a number of remedies that are available in the market namely wigs, topical treatments, drugs, nutrient supplements like vitamin, hair transplant surgery, caps and hats or complete shaving of hair. Other than these treatments, there are a number of associations, support groups, counsellors, etc to help people cope with the mental agony caused due to hair loss. Since, no permanent cure has yet been devised for the baldness, constant research studies are being carried out to find out the reasons responsible for the development of baldness.

Research has shown that the development of hair follicles takes place in the womb and after birth; there is no appearance of new follicles. In the head of a person, there are about 100,000 follicles and if the follicles are severely damaged due to any reason, it results in its end of the follicles and there is no further formation of hair from those follicles. The follicles are limited in their ability for regeneration and as there is no new formation of follicles after birth, it causes severe hair loss resulting in baldness.

The scientists in the University of Pennsylvania have illustrated the role of a particular gene that is responsible for the hair follicle formation. They have performed successful studies in mice for the regeneration of hair follicles. They have found the role of a particular gene called Wnt, which on manipulation leads to hair follicle regeneration. This study provides an area of vast application for devising methods regarding hair re-growth.

The studies showed the role of Wnt gene in the process of wound healing and the formation of new hair follicles. Different experiments were performed, which illustrated the formation of new follicles in the wound healing process; hence, this could be manipulated for increasing the number of follicles to a great extent. The experiment involved the removal of small sections of skin from the mice that resulted in the formation of new skin in those regions due to stem cell activity. During the process of the wound healing, it was observed that the skin that formed during the healing process possessed the characteristics of the normal skin with the original glands, hair follicles and eventually the same appearance. It was seen that if the Wnt gene was active, the normal healing process was achieved, while in the Wnt gene knockout mice or the mice, in which the Wnt gene was blocked, there was no formation of hair follicles. Moreover, it was also observed that increasing the activity of Wnt gene resulted in an increase in hair growth. Hence, it was concluded that the creation of wounds caused the ‘waking up’ of the Wnt gene, which activated the wound healing process, thereby resulting in formation of hair follicles resulting in new hair growth.

Hence, it can be seen that the studies have created a new view among the scientists to look at the aspect of gene therapy for baldness instead of looking at hormones. Although, the regeneration ability of many animals is known like the re-growth of tail, limbs, etc, the ability of regeneration in mammals was thought to be quite limited. However, the successful studies of regeneration of hair follicles and surrounding area of skin in mice after the creation of wounds have generated interest for further in-depth studies in this area and for successful translation to human studies. The new possibilities in the treatment of wounds have shown great promise for reconsidering the regenerative capabilities of skin in mammals.

The studies on the Wnt gene may stimulate detailed analysis on the subject for finding new solutions and treatments for baldness. However, it fails to generate the same amount of enthusiasm in others as previous researches on the discovery of ‘hairless’ gene responsible for baldness by scientists in Columbia University in 1998 could not be translated into hair loss therapies due to various reasons. Hence, the development of permanent solutions for baldness using gene therapy is a dream for future as extensive studies are essential related to the subject. The role of inherited genes and stem cells in the development of baldness continue to excite the scientists for further detailed research on the subject.
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Gene therapy for hair loss and baldness - by Kamat2010 - 11-20-2012, 02:39 AM
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