A study from Japan that was investigating the causes of hair follicle miniaturization (hair thinning and hair loss) and its relationship with hair follicle stem cells made a fascinating discovery that confirms the importance of the collagen gene (COL17A1) in preventing hair loss.
As cell damage occurs, undifferentiated stem cells are ready to differentiate into the damaged tissue for repair. The same holds true with hair follicles where it’s stem cells (HFSC), begin proliferating, which helps maintain hair growth and keep the regular hair growth cycle going.
However as we age, for one reason or another (telomere reduction, oxidation etc), HFSC begins ageing too and will eventually cease in replacing damaged tissue. This means it can no longer support the hair follicle in producing more hair and hair thinning and eventually hair loss (hair miniaturization) occurs.
The results from the experiment by Matsumura et al, found that damage-induced DNA depletion of the COL17A1 gene is what causes the ageing of HFSCs. When the COL17A1 gene is depleted as a result of constant DNA damage, keratinocytes, which are keratin producing cells, are shed from the scalp which stops further hair growth.
Essentially, if the COL17A1 gene can be supported, the depletion may not occur as fast, if at all. Furthermore, depletion occurs from DNA damage to begin with so it further points to inflammation being a major cause for hair loss, as well as other forms of ageing.
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