In a recent study, researchers from A*STAR find that the slowing of the metabolism as we age could be a driver of ‘chronogenetic alopecia’ or age-related hair loss.
This condition predominantly affects women.
Hair growth is an energy-intensive process. An average human grows almost two meters of hair over their body per hour.
As we are aging, the mitochondrial energy production slows, so we end up with a reduced ability to make good hair.
Any time there is a screw up in the metabolism we lose hair.
People who go on crash diets, students undertaking exams, all will lose hair. Only a small change in metabolism makes a noticeable difference.
Previous research has focused on balding men, and few studies have conducted to examine hair loss in women.
Understanding the energy, it takes to grow a strand of hair could hold the key to ensuring women end their lives with a wonderful bouffant.
The team’s latest study uses cutting-edge laser microscopy on plucked human and bovine hair to better understand hair growth at a molecular and metabolic level.
Their main interest is the role that mitochondrial metabolism and its by-product, reactive oxygen, play in the bioenergetics of the hair follicle.
The team suggests that the cells that create the hair multiply and synthesize biomass so quickly that they burn enormous amounts of energy much like “driving a car with both feet down hard on the gas”.
The motor is running flat out and as a result there is excess reactive oxygen generation in the hair follicle that damages the structure.
The follicle then loses its ability to continue to operate at full form over time.
The team also uncovered a previously unknown region in the hair shaft which they called the ‘ring of fire’ because it is a major source of reactive oxygen species.
The researchers say that their study shows that hair follicles and growth are more complex than previously thought.
Quelling the formation of reactive oxygen species and maintaining mitochondrial metabolism could be key to improving hair quality as we age.
The study was conducted by A*STAR scientist Thomas Dawson and his team.
Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore.
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