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Why So Much Hair Loss As We Grow Older? Well, Some of Our Hair Stem Cells Turn to Skin

Mar 2, 2016 1:00:31 PM / by Dalia Gaddis

Hair loss due to aging can be seen in individuals as young as 35 years old. Researchers find a new gene that plays a role in keeping hair follicle stem cells happy and healthy. Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.orgResearchers discover a type of collagen in stem cells that can reduce age related hair loss.

Alopecia, or hair loss, is a very common condition that affects about 40% of men at age of 35 and 40% of women at the age of 60. While several reasons trigger hair loss, the most common cause is aging. Current treatments available are not very effective and focus mainly on preventing more hair loss rather than re-growing lost hair. The psychological and emotional effects of hair loss are dramatic and play a big role in how individuals view themselves. Thus, finding more effective treatments or understanding the mechanisms behind hair loss would be beneficial.

The average person has about 100,000 strands of hair and about a hundred of those fall out every day. It is part of the natural hair cycle, where old hair fall and get replaced by new hair. At the base of the hair follicles, there are hair follicle stem cells that are capable to renew the hair lost with new strands. However, with aging, this balanced process gets disturbed and the rate at which new hair is made dramatically slows down, leading to hair loss. Initially, it was thought that the hair follicle stem cells die with age. But scientists have found that was not the case, keeping the whole process a mystery - until very recently.

A group of scientists in Tokyo Medical Institute in Japan have found that during aging, DNA damage results in a degradation of collagen type XVII, or col17A1, in the hair follicle stem cells. It turns out this col17A1 is essential for keeping the hair follicle stem cells more “stem cell-like”. With the decrease of col17A1, hair follicle stem cells lost their stem cell properties, their capacity to regrow hair, and they turned into epidermal or skin cells. When the researchers increased col17A1 levels in mice, they managed to prevent age-related hair loss in those mice. To verify their finding, the researchers examined human individuals and found a correlation between lower levels of col17A1 and hair loss in older individuals.1

This research provides novel insights into the mechanisms that govern hair loss and shed light on potential targets for treatment. Here, at HemaCare, we provide stem cells to study their role in hair loss and other age related conditions. Call us at (877) 397-3087 if you have any questions or would like to place an order.


1 Matsumura H. at al. (2016). Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via col17A1 proteolysis. Science, 351 (6273), DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4395.

Topics: Stem Cells, Basic Research

Dalia Gaddis

Written by Dalia Gaddis

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