Are you losing your hair? It’s (partly) the fault of the stress

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the role of the stress hormone corticosterone in hair. Explanations on their discovery.

If it is normal to lose hair every day, then an excessive phenomenon should alert. In this case, the culprit could well be… stress. Stress can lead to hair loss and baldness, according to a new study in mice. During their research, scientists at Harvard University identified the biological mechanism by which chronic stress impairs hair follicle stem cells.

Thus, they discovered that corticosterone, a hormone in mice released during stress, suppresses the production of the GAS6 protein. His mission ? Promote the growth of hair follicles. When a person or animal is stressed, high levels of corticosterone prevent it from being made. The discovery has yet to be shown to apply to humans, but researchers say the mechanism is similar.

Researchers have found that a stress hormone puts hair follicle stem cells in a prolonged resting phase, without regenerating the follicle or hair. Researchers have identified the specific cell type and molecule responsible for transmitting the stress signal to stem cells, a possible therapeutic route to restore hair growth and prevent stress-induced baldness. The findings were published in the journal Nature.

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Promote hair growth

This result suggests that high stress hormones have a negative effect on hair follicle stem cells. But the real surprise came when we eliminated the source of the stress hormones“Said Ya-Chieh Hsu, professor of stem cells and regenerative biology at Harvard and lead author of the study. Under normal conditions, hair follicle regeneration slows down over time. But when the researchers removed the hormones of stress, the resting phase of the stem cells became extremely short, and the mice constantly entered the growth phase to regenerate hair follicles even when they were old.

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The researchers noticed that the stress hormone prevented cells in the dermal papilla from secreting Gas6, a molecule capable of activating hair follicle stem cells. “Under normal and stressful conditions, the addition of Gas6 was sufficient to activate the stem cells of the hair follicles which were in the resting phase and to promote hair growth.“, said the scientist. Before concluding:”In the future, the Gas6 pathway could be exploited for its potential to activate stem cells to promote hair growth“.

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