New research reveals dense hair plucking stimulates regeneration of hair follicles, stimulating new hair growth. While it's nowhere near a cure for baldness, it may prove helpful to those dealing with hair disease and disorders such as alopecia, say scientists.

A study illustrates hefty follicle loss in a specific zone can stimulate a coordinated immune response to what the human body views as a skin injury, prompting follicle rejuvenation and hair replacement, almost up to five times more than the number of follicles loss to plucking.

The research, by USC scientists, demonstrated plucking 200 hairs in a certain density and pattern on a mouse led to 1,200 replacement hairs. The report is published in the April 9 edition of the journal Cell.

While some may be quick to view it as a potential cure for baldness, which it is not, it may prove useful to those dealing with hair disease or stalling baldness by plucking hairs when thinning is notice in a very early stage.

"It is a good example of how basic research can lead to a work with potential translational value," said Stem Cell Principal Investigator Cheng-Ming Chuong, a professor of pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "The work leads to potential new targets for treating alopecia, a form of hair loss."

It may play a much bigger role in regard to human body response to injury and illustrate how the immune system and body organs can respond to extreme change. In this case a hair follicle injury and the resulting quorum sensing principle, which is the follicle system response to the plucking of some but not all hairs in a specific area.

According to Chuong every hair follicle undergoes seasons of change, from being active and making hair grow longer to another phase of no growth and a phase of when hair loss occurs.

Once the follicles are plucked the body signals distress and ignites inflammatory proteins, which then taps immune cells that rush to help the injury site, states the research.

"The implication of the work is that parallel processes may also exist in the physiological or pathogenic processes of other organs, although they are not as easily observed as hair regeneration," Chuong said.

Annemiek Beverdam, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, doesn't believe the discovery will lead to curing or stopping baldness, but it could have tremendous potential in future research on how to tap the immune system to help the body rebuild when an injury is sustained.

"Baldness is caused by an ageing stem cell population, and the loss of hair follicles. You may be able to slow down progressive hair loss using therapeutics based on this finding by getting in there at the earliest signs of hair loss," she said. "But once bald means bald forever, unfortunately."

The quorum sensing mechanism, which trigged the hair regrowth in the mice, could end up providing useful insight regarding human organ and tissue regeneration.

"It is another demonstration that the immune system acts as a vehicle for communication within an organism," said Beverdam. "It is becoming increasingly accepted that this may actually be the main role of the immune system, rather than fighting infection and disease alone."

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