Johns Hopkins study discovers way to regrow hair follicles in mice

In a major new study published today in the journal 'Cell Stem Cell,' researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine say they've discovered a way to regrow hair follicles in mice, and it could mean big things for humans if the FDA agrees. {}

Luis Garza, M.D., Ph.D. is the study's senior author and a professor of dermatology at Hopkins says the people who would directly benefit from this research include burn patients and some patients with hair loss related to diseases in which the hair follicles are destroyed.

Dr. Garza and his team of more than 20 researchers have discovered a way to stimulate those follicles to regrow.

"It turns out that your body has an innate immune system," says Garza. Not the antibody form that we usually think of to fight off disease, but an innate, ancient immune system that senses and responds to damage, like a cut on your skin.

Garza explains, "Our eureka moment was to realize that the damage response is the first step in triggering regeneration. so if we can activate the damage response, we can probably promote regeneration."

If the FDA gives the green light, human trials could begin as early as a year from now -- perhaps in a topical or injectable form. They will first look to see if there is a compound already in use for another purpose with a track record of safety which could be effective in activating the protein which ultimately leads to the regrowth of the follicle. {}{}

This breakthrough, Garza hopes, could lead to further advancements in the regrowth of human hair, as well as skin and tissue regeneration.

"We're excited about turning on the body's own ability to regenerate. We know that regeneration can happen in nature. People can regenerate their digit tip, so eventually perhaps they could regenerate their whole finger, their whole hand, their whole arm."

It turns out in fact that growing hair follicles and growing limbs is a very similar cellular process. So for scientists like Dr. Garza, the idea of what could come from this discovery, is very exciting.

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