This shows a balding man.
Their adaptability makes them useful for repairing damaged tissue or organs. Credit: Neuroscience News

The End of Baldness? The Chemical Controlling Life and Death in Hair Follicles Identified

*Update* The findings could provide new treatment options for baldness and therapies to speed up wound healing.

Summary: Researchers have discovered that the protein TGF-beta is instrumental in controlling the division and death of hair follicle cells, which are a source of stem cells.

By regulating TGF-beta, scientists could potentially stimulate hair growth and even promote wound healing. Hair follicles, unlike other organs, automatically regenerate, providing unique insights into cell regeneration processes.

This understanding of stem cell behavior could offer significant solutions for a variety of medical problems.

Key Facts:

  1. TGF-beta, a type of protein, is essential in the process of cell division and death in hair follicles, influencing stem cells’ adaptability.
  2. Hair follicles, unique among human organs, automatically and periodically regenerate, making them a prime study subject for understanding cell regeneration.
  3. By learning to control TGF-beta levels, scientists might potentially stimulate hair growth and promote wound healing, bringing significant implications for medical treatments.

Source: UCR

A single chemical is key to controlling when hair follicle cells divide, and when they die. This discovery could not only treat baldness, but ultimately speed wound healing because follicles are a source of stem cells.

Most cells in the human body have a specific form and function determined during embryonic development that does not change. For example, a blood cell cannot turn into a nerve cell, or vice versa. Stem cells, however, are like the blank tiles in a game of Scrabble; they can turn into other types of cells. 

Credit: Neuroscience News

Their adaptability makes them useful for repairing damaged tissue or organs. 

“In science fiction when characters heal quickly from injuries, the idea is that stem cells allowed it,” said UC Riverside mathematical biologist and study co-author Qixuan Wang. 

“In real life, our new research gets us closer to understanding stem cell behavior, so that we can control it and promote wound healing,” Wang said. This research is detailed in a recent Biophysical Journal article.

The liver and stomach regenerate themselves in response to wounds. However, Wang’s team studied hair follicles because they’re the only organ in humans that regenerates automatically and periodically, even without injury. 

The researchers determined how a type of protein, TGF-beta, controls the process by which cells in hair follicles, including stem cells, divide and form new cells, or orchestrate their own death — eventually leading to the death of the whole hair follicle. 

“TGF-beta has two opposite roles. It helps activate some hair follicle cells to produce new life, and later, it helps orchestrate apoptosis, the process of cell death,” Wang said. 

As with many chemicals, it is the amount that makes the difference. If the cell produces a certain quantity of TGF-beta, it activates cell division. Too much of it causes apoptosis. 

No one is entirely sure why follicles kill themselves. Some hypotheses suggest it is an inherited trait from animals shedding fur to survive hot summer temperatures or trying to camouflage. 

“Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir. When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cell and develop into a new follicle,” Wang said. 

If scientists can determine more precisely the way TGF-beta activates cell division, and how the chemical communicates with other important genes, it might be possible to activate follicle stem cells and stimulate hair growth. 

Because many animals, including humans, possess skin covered with hair, perfect wound healing would require regeneration of hair follicles. Being able to more precisely control levels of TGF-beta could also one day cure baldness, which bothers millions of people all over the world.  

“Potentially our work could offer something to help people suffering from a variety of problems,” Wang said. 

About this baldness and genetics research news

Author: Jules Bernstein
Source: UCR
Contact: Jules Bernstein – UCR
Image: The image is credited to Helpaeatcontu

Original Research: Closed access.
A probabilistic Boolean model on hair follicle cell fate regulation by TGF-β” by Qixuan Wang et al. Biophysical Journal


A probabilistic Boolean model on hair follicle cell fate regulation by TGF-β

Hair follicles (HFs) are mini skin organs that undergo cyclic growth. Various signals regulate HF cell fate decisions jointly. Recent experimental results suggest that transforming growth factor beta (TGF-ββ) exhibits a dual role in HF cell fate regulation that can be either anti- or pro-apoptosis.

To understand the underlying mechanisms of HF cell fate control, we develop a novel probabilistic Boolean network (pBN) model on the HF epithelial cell gene regulation dynamics. First, the model is derived from literature, then refined using single-cell RNA sequencing data.

Using the model, we both explore the mechanisms underlying HF cell fate decisions and make predictions that could potentially guide future experiments: 1) we propose that a threshold-like switch in the TGF-ββ strength may necessitate the dual roles of TGF-ββ in either activating apoptosis or cell proliferation, in cooperation with bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and at different stages of a follicle growth cycle; 2) our model shows concordance with the high-activator-low-inhibitor theory of anagen initiation; 3) we predict that TNF may be more effective in catagen initiation than TGF-ββ, and they may cooperate in a two-step fashion; 4) finally, predictions of gene knockout and overexpression reveal the roles in HF cell fate regulations of each gene.

Attractor and motif analysis from the associated Boolean networks reveal the relations between the topological structure of the gene regulation network and the cell fate regulation mechanism.

A discrete spatial model equipped with the pBN illustrates how TGF-ββ and TNF cooperate in initiating and driving the apoptosis wave during catagen.

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  1. It helped when you wrote that a type of protein can cause the death of the whole hair follicle. My friend wants to avoid baldness. I should advise him to buy a hair loss shampoo combo kit for proper treatment.

  2. I would love to hear more about this product. Please let me know when it is available. Thank you!!

  3. Would be very interested when available. I am 64 have been mostly bald since my 40’s. Would be willing to be in a study group if needed.

  4. Lifestyle factors such as stress, smoking, too much alcohol, poor sleep and major life events contribute to hair loss.

  5. its kinda tragic the amount of people in the comments asking for this now. My opinion is we dont need a cure for baldness we need to readjust the empahasis placed on the importance of it, Society so ready to dismiss people as ugly for reasons which are totally unjustitified. Seems acceptable to shout baldie at a man but imagine the backlash when shouting about weight, race or anything that is so blatently superficial. Sorry but in the same waay we have fat shaming we have bald shaming and the problem is not for the bald person, the problem is the way its beeing judge in a wider sense and that people are ignorant to the fact that it damages their self image. Ever sinse I went bald I became more confident but amazes me what people are willing to shout and say to me just for the reason I have less hair than I used to. The problem is with the people who judge other like this, how about we round those people up and give them medication to go bald, that would solve the problem too.

    1. What about women who start losing their hair after menopause? For women, healthy hair is like an appendage you don’t want to lose. As we age past 60 the aging process is cruel. If we could restore our thinning hair let’s do it!

    2. I was thinning before starting Finasterid in my late 30’s and it worked rather well. I have long, thick curly hair that my wife loves running her hands through, and she tells me she hears lots of other women say they’d love to do the same.
      She’d love me just the same, but let’s be honest, I’m more attractive with hair. I have a lot of scars on my head from years of extreme sports and alcohol abuse (sober 7 years now). I have skin cancer on both sides of my family.

      There’s not a dn thing wrong with going bald, but I’d try to be less sensitive to the world around you. You say your confidence went up, but you obviously have pain over the loss of your hair because you compared it to fat shaming. I’d try to get over yourself, maybe you have a big ego, but no confidence. Earned confidence is far different than an ego you created to make you feel better about yourself.
      Think about it.

      1. I would like to know more are you doing an independent study where people can participate?

    3. Society doesn’t have anything to do with the effect that going bald has on a person. Going bald makes people look completely different. Not everyone looks good bald, most don’t, it makes most people look unattractive. It sounds to me like you created your own narrative about “bald shaming”. I still have 95% of my hair, but would love to get that 5% back. Why wouldn’t I if there was really a solution that worked? People with 0 problems go through great lengths to improve their appearance even when there’s nothing to improve. This is tragic, it’s not tragic when someone with a legitimate problem wants a solution to said problem.

  6. oh if it was really something that we can afford,i would use it! SIGN ME UP WOULD LIKE TO HAVE MY HAIR BACK I’M 67

  7. Knowledge leads to more knowledge along with more possibilities for other applications

  8. I too share the dream for more options. Propecia and Rogaine require consistency and regularity that I’ve come to accept I will never be capable of. Of course, any new treatments will likely be out of my price range and not be included by my insurance, but the dream remains.

  9. My shaved head is my truth. I love it. I don’t know why baldness bothers people. I also don’t know why women wear makeup and fake hair. They live on a throne of lies. I enjoy my natural beauty. Would I elect this treatment to activate my natural stem cells? Maybe that would be my new truth?

    1. Oh stop. Not everyone, especially women, wants their “truth” to be baldness. It’s about self image and acceptance, yes. But some people are lucky to have a nice shaped head for being bald and the confidence to roll with it. Many many people do not, and it is more a psychological burden than it is a physical one. This could help with mental, and sub-sequentially physical health worldwide.

  10. Baldness is NOT a disease or illness.
    There is no natural option to replace the hair that decided to leave it origin.
    Unlike overweight people who eat too much and/ or don’t exercise.. in a lot of cases they have options.
    And, in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of “ bald” guys have beautiful wives!
    We didn’t have a choice here, folks!
    And yes, being bald restricts job opportunities. Apply for a job bald, apply for same job with a head full of hair and see what happens!
    Remove the hair from some actors and see what happens! A lot wear wigs!
    Initially hair loss is a bummer. But let’s face it, we have no choice. Eventually our self esteem and confidence return and we end up having a really nice

    Most if us are also very funny! That’s probably because we’re not into our selves and can laugh and be thankful that being bald isn’t a terminal “disease”!😂

      1. Hey docs,

        I started thinning in my 30s and have shaved my head for almost ten years now. Please research and provide a cream (preferably), or a pill (if you must), so that I can stop all of the hair on my head from growing so I don’t need to shave anymore. Thanks!

  11. I am very interested in this as my hair thinning and am worried that by the time I get to dermatologist I’ll prob. Nearly be bald. It’s really stressing me out. I hide in beanies and it’s just really embarrassing.pls. help

  12. My question is how much for the golden treatment,is this made for hard working low income people that can’t afford it,or just for people that have the luxury to get it done

  13. I’m 62 getting the family high recsding forehead all the men father grandfather’s all started balding around age 50 .how do I get the medicine to start using it

  14. This is for Angel. I’ve seen persons that use a type of roller brush with little needles. They poke themselves with this brush and take biotin keratin even collagen and pumpkin seed oil. I believe the injury from the brush stimulates the stem cells to repair the damaged skin. The scalp then starts to repair itself. Try it.

  15. I am very interested in when this will be made available. Will it work for people with alopecia areta? I’ve about lost all my hair from this.

  16. There’s one in every crowd, and I suppose this time it’s me. This also sounds like path to a possible treatment for permanent hair removal.

  17. like to know when do you think in your opinion this will be available to humans

  18. I would be very interested to know more about this product once it becomes available to be used.

    1. Wow amazing. So we’ll just keep pumping America full of drugs to treat the symptoms of all of these other diseases like hepatitis, herpes, diabetes and high blood pressure, but fear not, we’ll soon have a cure for your baldness. 🤦 Thanks but no thanks. How about treating something that actually matters.

      1. The article and research suggest that treatment for hair regrowth would give us the means to heal wounds faster. How does that not “actually matter?” People would depend less on pain meds, which I’m turn would lead to lower pain med addiction rates.

        Also, just because we haven’t discovered cures for other debilitating diseases, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to treat other non life-threatening medical issues like baldness. That’s a sure way to hinder the growth of a society.

      2. People have a way of deciding for themselves what actually matters, and you’ll see clear evidence of that if and when this product comes to market by looking at the astronomical revenues.

      3. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you because you are not afflicted with hair loss. It does matter to some people. It matters to alot of people.

  19. Good evening. In your article you state that-TGF-beta protein controls the process by which hair follicles, including stem cells, divide and form new cells or orchestrate apoptosis. The findings could provide new treatment options for baldness and therapies to speed up wound healing.
    Would this help with alopecia? And is there a product you could recommend for alopecia? My alopecia is waves all throughout my scalp and I have tried everything! Can you recommend something for this?

  20. so when this formula can be use on real people to see if it work to stop hair from falling out?

    1. Regenerating Hair Follicles

      Regenerating new hair follicles that can grow human hair.
      Oct. 22, 2013

      A cure for baldness? Researchers develop method for growing new human hair 2015
      Sure they’re on top of this. Probably goes back far more years, I’m with concerned citizen on this one.Especially these days all the things they could be studying (and yes hair is important) but cmon so much more important things they been on follicle regeneration for atleast 15 years on my short research lol. Geez

      1. Will be very interesting. Because my hear are less and less every day are gone.
        The first of this happening cause the business are not working well.

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