Apr 1, 2014

Hair follicle growth PNAS 010414

A new discovery showing how hair growth signals growth of the fat tissue below could ultimately lead to the development of a cream to dissolve fat.

The research was led by Professor Fiona Watt at King’s College London in collaboration with Professor of Dermatology Rodney Sinclair from the University of Melbourne and Epworth Hospital.

The research confirmed that changes in the hair growth cycle lead to oscillations in the thickness of the underlying fat layer of the skin.  They identified the Wnt/b-catenin signals generated from the hair follicle can inhibit fat production and that inhibiting these signals can lead to fat development.

The authors propose that the specific chemicals identified in this study could be produced synthetically and used in creams for topical application to the skin to modulate growth of fat beneath the skin.

Professor Sinclair said that this technology could potentially be used both as a means to replace fat lost in scar tissue or alternatively as a localized treatment for obesity – the cream could trim fact specifically where it was applied by ‘pausing’ the production of factors that contribute to fat cell growth. 

The effect of changes in the fat tissue on the synchronized patterns of hair follicle growth has long been established. In a world first, the research found that the skin can regulate fat production.

“This is the first demonstration that the opposite also holds true in that the skin can regulate the development of fat,” Professor Sinclair said.

“The main difference between hairs on the scalp and elsewhere on the body is that scalp hair sits deep in the fat tissue.”

“This paper shows that hair loss as seen in alopecia makes the scalp thinner immediately underneath. This new insight may also help understand the enigma of alopecia, an auto-immune condition that affects 1-2% of the general population at some stage in their life.

This discovery could also affect future treatment of obesity, male and female pattern baldness and a rare scalp condition where the fat layer beneath the skin expands.


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