For the 80 percent of women and 60 percent of men who will experience noticeable hair loss by age 60, finding new ways to stimulate hair growth could change the lives of millions of people. Recently, UCLA researchers may have found the answer: stimulating hair follicle stem cells.
When scientists talk about metabolism, they aren’t just talking about how much food your body can process without gaining weight. Metabolism describes all of the processes in your body that turn food into energy, one of which takes place on your scalp and could hold the answer to regenerating hair growth.
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When hair follicle stem cells don’t activate, that is, when they don’t metabolize glucose from the bloodstream into either lactate or pyruvate (two metabolites), hair loss ensues. This finding opened up a new door for researchers in increasing the production of these metabolites to accelerate hair growth through stem cell activation. In the subsequent study, performed at UCLA, the team first blocked the production of lactate in mice and observed the way this prevented hair growth. Then, they increased the production of lactate, which activated the hair follicle stem cells, thus stimulating hair growth.
Now, the researchers are working to harbor these effects in a drug for human use. They’ve tested and patented both RCGD423 and UK5099: the former activates a signaling pathway to increase lactate production while the latter blocks pyruvate from entering the mitochondria to force the cells to produce lactate.
Though you can’t run to your doctor and pick up these hair-growth stimulants just yet, this research marks a breakthrough in regrowing hair and a huge shift from products that widen the hair follicle or costly hair transplant surgeries. With this new knowledge, there is hope for a carefree, noninvasive pill that won’t have you running to the store monthly to replace your bottle of Rogaine.