Study reveals a link between the nervous system and stem cells that regenerate pigment in hair follicles. When stressed, norepinephrine from the sympathetic nervous system causes melanocyte stem cells to activate excessively. The stem cells all convert into pigment-producing cells, prematurely depleting the reservoir. The findings explain the cellular and molecular links between stress and premature hair graying.
Skin-related stem cells may be key to helping restore the myelin sheath in patients with multiple sclerosis. Using mouse models, researchers discovered melanocyte stem cells can, under the right conditions, function as cells that create myelin.
Melanocyte stem cells from human hair follicles that carry CD34 have the ability to turn into glial cells. The CD34+ stem cells can regenerate myelin, both on neurons and in mouse models with a genetic defect that prevents the formation of healthy myelin sheaths. The findings could have positive implications for the treatment of demyelinating diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Mice that carry a gene associated with red hair have reduced production of dopamine in the substantia nigra and are more susceptible to toxins that can damage these dopaminergic neurons.