Feliz Navidad — Breakthrough from Spain

Update: Seems like the positive impact of macrophages on hair growth was already known in 2007!  Thanks to commenter “spain”.

2007 study from Osaka et al.


I had heard about all of the above  developments right around when they first occurred, but was still not particularly hopeful of anything significant happening in Spain when it comes to hair loss research related breakthroughs.   Most of the widely respected hair loss research scientists in the world seem to reside in the US, UK, Germany, Japan and several other parts of Northern Europe and developed Asia.

However, two days ago, Spanish scientists (from the previously mentioned cancer research institute CNIO) led by Dr. Mirna Perez-Moreno and Dr. Donatello Castellana published a groundbreaking hair loss research related paper in the PLOS Biology journal titled “Macrophages Contribute to the Cyclic Activation of Adult Hair Follicle Stem Cells.”  It should be noted that Dr. Moreno has previously worked at noted hair loss researcher Elaine Fuchs’ laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. Further lending credibility to this paper is a third co-author and well known hair loss researcher by the name of Dr. Ralf Paus.

For the average layperson (including myself), the above publication is difficult to digest in its entirety if one does not want to spend half a day reading it and go back and forth with google dictionary.  So here are links to articles with easier to understand summaries:

Article 1: From the sometimes great, usually trashy dailymail.

Article 2: From the interesting EurekAlert.

Article 3: From the Spanish elpais (use the “Translate to English” option in the Chrome browser after right clicking on your mouse).

The main findings:

  1. Macrophages (a type of white blood cell) can activate adult hair follicle stem cells.
  2. Mice started to regrow hair when they were given anti-inflammatory drugs (It seems like this whole year in hair loss research can largely be summed up by the words “inflammation” and “anti-inflammatory”).
  3.  Macrophages secrete a number of growth factors including a class of proteins called Wnt.  You can do a search on this blog for Wnt, Wnt7b and Wnt/Beta-Catenin to learn more about Wnt proteins and corresponding pathways.  You can search via the search box in the upper right, or via the “Categories” menu located on the upper left side if you are viewing this blog on a computer (or all the way down if you are viewing this blog on a mobile device or tablet).

As usual the study was carried out in mice and not humans…but I think that it is now only a matter of a short time before we see an increasing number of trials in humans.  As I have mentioned many times on this blog, this will probably happen faster in Asia than in other regions due to regulatory reasons.

The University of Bradford Hair Loss Research

Update 2019: Dr. Kevin McElwee from Canada is now a professor at UK-based University of Bradford’s Centre for Skin Sciences. Also, some of the below mentioned hair loss researchers and scientists may no longer be working at the University.

Update 2018: The University of Bradford and Follicum have entered into an agreement regrading developing new peptide drugs. Research collaboration will begin in 2019, and entail both hair loss and diabetes.

On this blog, I have discussed important hair loss research that is being undertaken at universities around the world. The most renowned/widely covered work is happening at Columbia University in the US (under Dr. Angela Christiano), Durham University in the UK (under Dr. Colin Jahoda) and the University of Pennsylvania in the US (under Dr. George Cotsarelis).

Hair Loss Research at The University of Bradford

However, recently, while reading about Dr. Valerie Randall’s keynote presentation at the 22nd annual ISHRS meeeting, I realized that the University of Bradford (UK) where she works at perhaps leads all universities in the world in terms of the amount and range of hair loss related research being conducted there every year.  On the university’s Centre for Skin Sciences staff page, one can see the names of some of the world’s leading hair research scientists.

Besides Dr. Randall, among the better known of these researchers include Dr. Des Tobin (lot of research related to hair pigment changes); Dr. Natalia V Botchkareva (lot of research related to MicroRNA’s impact on skin and hair); and Dr. Vladimir A Botchkarev.