Why stress can make you lose your hair: Scientists discover how stress suppresses hair follicle activity in a breakthrough that could pave the way for a treatment for baldness
- Researchers studied the role of the stress hormone corticosterone on hair
- Tests on mice showed that it inhibits the production of the chemical GAS6
- This keeps the hair follicles inactive for longer and can lead to hair loss
Stress can lead to hair loss and baldness, a new study in mice suggests.
Researchers at Harvard University found that corticosterone, a hormone released in mice during stress, suppresses the production of the protein GAS6.
GAS6 promotes the growth of hair follicles and when a person or animal is stressed, high corticosterone levels prevent their production.
The discovery has not yet been shown to apply to humans, but researchers say the mechanism is similar.
Experts hope that by understanding the underlying cause of hair loss, they can produce therapies, such as creams, that can prevent stress-induced baldness.
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Being stressed can lead to baldness because the body makes chemicals that inhibit hair follicle growth, a study in mice found.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS?
It is completely normal for people to lose small amounts of hair while it replenishes itself and on average people can lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day.
However, if people start to lose patches of hair or large amounts of hair, it can be more troubling and possibly a sign of something serious.
Pattern baldness is a common cause of hair loss as people age. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, at least half of men over the age of 50 will lose some of their hair due to the aging process.
Women can also lose their hair with age.
Other more concerning causes of hair loss include stress, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, weight loss or iron deficiency.
However, most hair loss is temporary and is expected to regrow.
Specific medical conditions that cause hair to fall out include alopecia, an immune system disorder; an underactive or overactive thyroid gland; the skin condition lichen planus or Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer.
People should visit their doctor if their hair starts to fall out in lumps, falls out suddenly, if their scalp itches or burns, and if hair loss is causing them severe stress.
Study author Ya-Chieh Hsu, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, said, “Stress hormones suppress growth in mice through the regulation of hair follicle stem cells.”
Throughout the entire lifespan, the hair follicles go through three stages: ‘anagen’, the growth phase; ‘catagen’, the degenerative phase; and ‘telogen’, a rest period.
During anagen action, a follicle continuously pushes out a hair shaft. With catagen, growth stops and the lower part shrinks, but the hair stays in place.
In the telogen phase, however, the stem cell of the hair follicle is not active and the hair can fall out quickly.
The US team studied the role of the stress hormone on mice by removing their adrenal glands that pump out the chemical.
The altered mice were unable to make corticosterone, mimicking what it is like in a stress-free environment.
Data shows that the hair follicles of these mice were in telogen for only 20 days, three times less than in the unaltered mice that do make corticosterone.
The follicles were also three times more likely to be engaged in hair growth, the researchers say.
Researchers then injected the mice with GAS6 and found that it successfully restored hair growth.
“Restoring GAS6 expression could overcome stress-induced inhibition of hair follicle stem cells – and stimulate growth regeneration,” explains Professor Hsu.
Prof. Rui Yi, a dermatologist at Northwestern University in Chicago who was not involved in the study, said: “These exciting findings lay a foundation for exploring treatments for hair loss caused by chronic stress.
“The authors may have discovered a previously unknown mechanism that directly stimulates hair follicle stem cell (HFSC) activation by promoting cell division.”
Study author Ya-Chieh Hsu, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, said: ‘Stress hormones suppress growth in mice through the regulation of hair follicle stem cells’
Modern life for humans is inevitably stressful. But maybe one day it will prove possible to combat the negative impact of chronic stress on our hair, at least by adding some GAS6. ‘
Currently, transplanting hair follicles from one part of the head to another is the only option for male pattern baldness.
The study has been published in the journal Nature
Scientists claim to have found an extract from mangrove trees that can cure BALDNESS
Thai researchers claim to have found an extract from mangrove trees that can cure baldness.
A small study of 50 people who suffer from androgenic alopecia – the most common form of baldness – indicates that the extract stops hair loss and also promotes hair growth.
The substance, called Avicennia Marin, contains the main chemical Avicequinon-C.
This active substance is believed to reverse hair loss by disrupting the enzymes that lead to increased hormone levels that cause baldness.
Researchers hope the findings can help people suffering from androgenetic alopecia reverse their hair loss.