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Breakthrough: Researchers Find Causes of Balding and Gray Hair

by Lauren Salapatek | September 1, 2017
 Getty Images
Getty Images

Scientists at the University of Texas recently discovered the cells that cause baldness and hair to turn gray in mice. Could a possible solution, treatment or new services to help clients cope with these long-standing hair mysteries be far behind?

Researchers are hopeful—and beginning to work on options—but say it will take considerable time and additional studies to understand if the findings apply to humans. 

First reported in the journal Genes and Development and then by major consumer media like TIME.com, researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX shared they were studying a rare genetic disease and trying to determine what cells cause tumors to grown on nerves when they accidentally made the hair-related discoveries.

They learned that the protein KROX20, more commonly associated with nerve development, “turns on” skin cells that become the hair shaft. These cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF), found to be essential for hair pigmentation.

When they deleted the SCF gene in cells in mouse models, the animal’s hair turned white. When they deleted the KROX20-producing cells, no hair grew and the mice became bald, according to the study.

“With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems.” said Dr. Lu Le, Associate Professor of Dermatology with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern.

The team will now try to find out if the KROX20 in cells and the SCF gene stop working properly as people age, leading to the graying and hair thinning seen in older people—as well as in male pattern baldness, Dr. Le said. The research also could provide answers about why we age in general as hair graying and hair loss are among the first signs of aging.

What does this mean for salons and the hair color and hair loss categories?

The type of solutions Dr. Le and other researchers will work to develop will take time to evolve, or may hit roadblocks. If, whenever or whatever solutions emerge, clients will still depend on stylists as their most trusted beauty authority to help navigate options. New science will likely mean new opportunities for beauty and salons.

As MODERN SALON has reported in PROCESS (our year-round program focused on hair color) and in HAIR+ and the HAIR+ Summit event (the only resources exclusively dedicated to help salons understand and benefit from the hair loss, trichology and hair enhancement category), clients of all ages and genders are strongly motivated to find solutions to their specific hair color and hair loss needs, and are willing to invest.  In multiple surveys conducted by MODERN, consumers state that stylists are a trusted and preferred resource in these two categories, and they welcome recommendations and direction while in the salon chair.

MODERN SALON’s mission is to keep you ahead of the curve in providing your clients the fashion, solutions and support they need. With an aging population, a range of medical and hormonal challenges, a variety of new products and technologies, and an increased interest for on-demand hair-enhancement solutions, there’s greater demand than ever for salon professionals to understand hair loss and hair enhancement—and how they can provide the expertise and direction to best help their clients. To learn more about this increasingly important category, read MODERN SALON’s 2016 HAIR+ Supplement and watch for the 2017 edition coming with the August issue of MODERN and the July/August issue of SALON TODAY.

To get the best immersion and learn the full range of profit-driving opportunities, attend the HAIR+ Summit on September 24-25 in Atlanta. READ MORE.

To follow the latest developments in hair color trends, product technology, formulation and more, tap into our PROCESS program as well as all the hair color coverage MODERN SALON offers non-stop across our platforms. The theme for PROCESS 2017 is the “Integrity” of the hair, reflecting the fact that clients have prioritized “hair health” or condition, and “how my hair feels or performs after hair color” as key to hair color needs and decisions.

Check out the 2016 PROCESS guide and online resource here, and watch for the 2017 update coming with October MODERN SALON and September/October SALON TODAY.

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