Update: Seems like the positive impact of macrophages on hair growth was already known in 2007! Thanks to commenter “spain”.
- In 2008, Spanish doctors performed the world’s first stem cell engineered windpipe transplant in a woman using a donor trachea and the woman’s own stem cells.
In 2010, Spain won the FIFA World Cup (the single most prestigious and respected sporting achievement in the world).
- In 2010, Spanish surgeons performed the world’s first ever full facial transplant.
- In 2013, scientists at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) created pluripotent stem cells in animals (mice) for the first time. Previously, this could only be done in the lab. More, including video from CNIO here.
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:
- Macrophages (a type of white blood cell) can activate adult hair follicle stem cells.
- 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”).
- 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.