Hair stem cells

Some readers of this blog have expressed interest in my new hair growth which I have tentatively attributed to telomerase activation resulting from taking an astragaloside IV supplement.  This has led me to look into what recent research tells us about hair stem cells and what the implications are for impeding or reversing baldness.  I found out a lot more on the subject than I anticipated.  Here are some of the highlights.

Hair follicles

To start with, a little background on hair follicles and hair growth.  A good general source of information can be found at  Basically, a hair follicle is tiny bulb-like organ that , if it remains healthy “ –keeps on producing hair throughout an individual’s life.”  Growth of a hair takes place in a cycle of the follicle in three stages: anagen – the hair growing phase which may last 2-6 years; catagen – the intermediate phase lasting 2-3 weeks where “the hair stops growing and the hair follicle shrinks and part of it starts to die(ref),” and telogen – a resting phase that lasts about three months when the hair follicle is inactive and the old hair may be shed.  Then the follicle starts the cycle over again with a new hair, pushing out the remains of the old hair if it is still there. A follicle may be reborn 10-20 times and produce that many hairs over a lifetime.

Hair follicle stem cells

Hair follicle stem cells are epithelial stem cells that divide and produce new hair follicle cells in each growth cycle.  They are found in a part of the follicle known as the bulge, though stem cells capable of generating new hair follicles may also exist elsewhere on the skin. “Interfollicular epidermal cells also retain some capacity to generate new hair follicles(ref).”  Research has shown that at least some hair stem cells are pluripotent, that is, a single stem cell can differentiate into all the multiple cell types found in a follicle.  “The rat whisker stem cells participated again in forming all the cell types needed to form the hair follicle and sebaceous glands, resulting in hair bulbs that underwent repeated normal phases of growth, rest and regeneration. The fact that the transplanted cells participate in the hair cycle over long periods of time shows that they are true multipotent stem cells and not progeniture cells(ref).” 

Actually, some hair follicle stem cells are sufficiently pluripotent that they can be induced to differentiate into multiple types of somatic cells.  “– the researchers isolated and grew a new type of multipotent adult stem cell from scalp tissue obtained from the National Institute of Health’s Cooperative Human Tissue Network.” – “The mutipotent stem cells grow as masses the investigators call hair spheres. After growing the “raw” cells from the hair spheres in different types of growth factors, the investigators were able to differentiate the stem cells into multiple lineages, including nerve cells, smooth muscle cells, and melanocytes (skin pigment cells).” –“The differentiated cells acquired lineage-specific markers and demonstrated appropriate functions in tissue culture, according to each cell type(ref).”  In fact, neural crest stem cells that live in hair follicles could possibly be used for stem cell therapy purposes in lieu of embryonic or other stem cell types(ref).  “The neural crest is a population of stem cells that migrate extensively during development and give rise to many derivatives, including most of the bone and cartilage of the head skeleton, pigment cells of the skin, and cells of the peripheral nervous system (ref).”

“Overall then, it seems that stem cells are very flexible. Stems cells form other parts of the body can form hair follicles thus triggering hair regrowth if given the correct signals. Equally, stem cells in hair follicles can also form other tissues if given the appropriate signals(ref). The implications of using hair stem cells for tissue regeneration are widespread. 

“Engineering blood vessels for bypass surgery, promoting the formation of new blood vessels or regenerating new skin tissue using stem cells obtained from the most accessible source — hair follicles — is a real possibility,” – “The group recently produced data showing that stem cells from human hair follicles also differentiate into contractile smooth muscle cells.  “We have demonstrated that engineered blood vessels prepared with smooth muscle progenitor cells from hair follicles are capable of dilating and constricting, critical properties that make them ideal for engineering cardiovascular tissue regeneration.” – “Since smooth muscle cells comprise the muscle of numerous tissues and organs, including the bladder, abdominal cavity and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, this new, accessible source of cells may make possible future treatments that allow for the regeneration of these damaged organs as well(ref).”

Hair stem cells and hair growth

Stem cell division and differentiation enable a hair follicle to renew itself at the start of each growth cycle and are essential for hair growth. According to a recent report “For a new round of hair growth to begin, stem cells in the hair follicle must receive a signal to divide. In response to this signal, the hair follicle regenerates first by growing downward through the skin’s middle layer, the dermis, and then producing the specialized cells that form the hair. After a period during which the hair grows longer, stem cells stop dividing, and the hair follicle gradually retracts again. There is then a period of rest and the cycle repeats(ref).”  A small compartment at the bottom of the bulge known as the hair germ plays a role in transmitting the signal for a hair follicle to renew itself and start making a new hair. “The researchers believe, however, that toward the end of the resting phase, the hair germ gets activated to proliferate before the bulge. Moreover, the team showed that the activating signal comes from a structure known as the dermal papilla(ref).”  What are the signals? “We think that FGF7 might contribute, along with the Wnts and BMP inhibitory signals, to coax the hair germ to divide and proliferate(ref).”  In case you are wondering, FGF7 is a growth factor made by the dermal papilla; Wnts is an important protein signaling pathway; BMP is bone morphogenic protein. Wnt and BMP signaling are important for neural crest stem cell maintenance(ref), bringing us back to the probable importance of these pluripotent cells in hair follicles.

Another study reports “We’ve found that we can influence wound healing with wnts or other proteins that allow the skin to heal in a way that has less scarring and includes all the normal structures of the skin, such as hair follicles and oil glands, rather than just a scar,” explains Cotsarelis.” – “By introducing more wnt proteins to the wound, the researchers found that they could take advantage of the embryonic genes to promote hair-follicle growth, thus making skin regenerate instead of just repair. Conversely by blocking wnt proteins, they also found that they could stop the production of hair follicles in healed skin. — Increased wnt signaling doubled the number of new hair follicles(ref).”

Recent research unveiled another important property of hair follicle stem cells.  They “can divide actively and transport themselves through the skin tissue(ref).”  That means that once dividing, they are not necessarily confined to a follicle of origin. “Here we show that Lgr5+ cells comprise an actively proliferating and multipotent stem cell population able to give rise to new hair follicles and maintain all cell lineages of the hair follicle over long periods of time. Lgr5+ progeny repopulate other stem cell compartments in the hair follicle, supporting the existence of a stem or progenitor cell hierarchy. By marking Lgr5+ cells during trafficking through the lower outer root sheath, we show that these cells retain stem cell properties and contribute to hair follicle growth during the next anagen(ref).”

Finally, I found a piece of research published this month that shows a direct link between telomerase activation, Wnt signaling and epidermal (including hair) stem cell differentiation. “Either stimulation of Wnt/ -catenin signalling or overexpression of telomerase is sufficient to activate quiescent epidermal stem cells in vivo,” — “These data reveal an unanticipated role for telomerase as a transcriptional modulator of the Wnt/ -catenin signalling pathway(ref).”

All of this is to say that:

IF telomerase activation promotes the differentiation of hair stem cells (and the last citation and other research I have cited previously says it does; see the recent post Extra-telomeric benefits of telomerase –  good news for telomerase activators)

AND activated hair stem cells can wander across the skin and start new hair follicles (which the above-cited research says happens)

THEN there is a plausible basis that telomerase activation will over time lead to more and more new hair follicles and hairs appearing on the head of a previously-bald guy like me (which is happening).  Besides, my often-cited shaggy mouse story shows it works in mice.  So, why not in me?  Given that hair follicles go into renewal phase only every 2-6 years I have to be reconciled that getting a full head of hair back may take some time.

About Vince Giuliano

Being a follower, connoisseur, and interpreter of longevity research is my latest career. I have been at this part-time for well over a decade, and in 2007 this became my mainline activity. In earlier reincarnations of my career. I was founding dean of a graduate school and a university professor at the State University of New York, a senior consultant working in a variety of fields at Arthur D. Little, Inc., Chief Scientist and C00 of Mirror Systems, a software company, and an international Internet consultant. I got off the ground with one of the earliest PhD's from Harvard in a field later to become known as computer science. Because there was no academic field of computer science at the time, to get through I had to qualify myself in hard sciences, so my studies focused heavily on quantum physics. In various ways I contributed to the Computer Revolution starting in the 1950s and the Internet Revolution starting in the late 1980s. I am now engaged in doing the same for The Longevity Revolution. I have published something like 200 books and papers as well as over 430 substantive.entries in this blog, and have enjoyed various periods of notoriety. If you do a Google search on Vincent E. Giuliano, most if not all of the entries on the first few pages that come up will be ones relating to me. I have a general writings site at and an extensive site of my art at Please note that I have recently changed my mailbox to
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Hair stem cells

  1. Hi, I am 19 and I always had this problem of light hair. Now after continuous use of this herbal tonic from the website .I have the healthiest hair with all that shine and buff that I have always desired. This tonic is seriously doing wonders. Give it a try!

  2. admin says:

    Hi hair loss shampoo:

    The site for the shammpoo makes interesting claims but I neither see a list of ingredients in the shammpoo nor research backing up the claims. So, though I might try the shammpoo on a personal level, it is not in the spirit of this blog for me to endorse or comment on it at this point. If you can point me to some independent research on the substance, I will certainlly be glad to have a look at it.

  3. Ed Naccash says:

    Repigmenting Grey Hair

    A very interesting patent was filed by Dr. Bruno Bernard, the head of the hair biology research team at L’Oreal. I was motivated to look for it after reading a few articles and interviews with him where he discussed a new product that L’Oreal is developing that reverses grey hair.

    The patent of interest to me is:
    Administration of agents inducing dopachrome tautomerase (TRP-2) expression for protecting hair follicle melanocytes

    So far, this patent represents the only scientifically based approach to reversing grey hair that I have seen so far.

    You can read it here:

    I am in the process of ordering the ingredients for two of the formulations outlined in the patent from a chemical company in China. My purpose is to attempt to create the hair lotion mentioned using glycyrrhizin and kaempferol as the DOPAchrome tautomerase inducers.

    If anyone is interested in collaborating with me on this project let me know by posting on this blog. Then, we can work out how to coordinate our activities.

  4. Jimmi Andersen says:

    “AND activated hair stem cells can wander across the skin and start new hair follicles (which the above-cited research says happens)”

    Do you know how to prevent this from happening? Like many other guys I have fordyce spots(hair follicles and sebaceous glands on the shaft of the penis) and I don’t like how it looks. Do you know if there is any way to kill the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and get smooth skin?

  5. admin says:


    There is possibly an answer to your question, but I don’t know it. Have you consulted with a dermatologist?

  6. Jimmi Andersen says:

    I have not consulted a dermatologist but I have read posts on forums where people tell that the dermatologist they have contacted just said that they are normal and nothing can be done about it. I don’t accept that. I want them gone. I am considering getting a laser hair removal but I don’t know if a laser can remove tiny almost invisible hairs and I am not sure that a laser will do anything about the bumps. At the moment I am trying to find out what the bumps are caused by. If I knew whether it was hair follicles, sebaceous glands, trapped sebum or trapped keratin that causes the bumps I think it would be easier to find a cure. I think it might be trapped keratin because I also have keratosis pilaris (overproduction of keratin) which causes small bumps on the upper arms and I think that these two conditions are somehow related. In the bumps on the penis I can feel some kind of hard build of that seems to be trapped under the skin. I think that build up is keratin because as far as I know sebum doesn’t feel like a hard lump. I am not 100 % sure that it is keratin because I am able to squeeze sebum out of some of them and on my lips I also have fordyce spots and they just look like small sebaceous glands. Do you know what I can do about it if it is caused by a buildup of keratin? or do you know what it is called when a dermatologist uses one of those scanners that can see what is below the upper layer of skin?

    Sorry for any grammatical errors. English is not my first language. I enjoy reading your blog.

  7. Jimmi Andersen says:

    And here is a question that doesn’t have anything to do with fordyce spots. I am 22 years old(in about 2 months) and I would like to get an education that has something to do with aging. Do you have an idea for what kind of education I should get? At the moment I am considering getting an education as a microbiologist but I don’t know if there is an education that is more relevant with regards to aging?

  8. Jimmi Andersen says:

    In the previous post I meant molecular biologist 🙂

  9. admin says:

    Jim Andersen

    People with a lots of different backgrounds in the life sciences end up being aging researchers. I think molecular biology is an excellent general track to start out on. Later you could branch off into cell biology or one of several more specialized areas.


  10. Jean-Pierre says:

    Thank you very much for your great work!

    A new publication about hair loss :


    Why didn’t you uptade your”TABLE I – SUPPLEMENTS IN COMBINED FIREWALLS” with the last science advance, as R Lipoic acid,L Carnitine Arginate, Bio Curcumin, Micronize Trans Resveratrol, etc…?

  11. Tim says:


    Being this was posted in July of 2009, have you seen any significant progress (especially relative to your starting point)? Thanks.

    – Tim

  12. admin says:


    There probnably has been progress but I have to pick up on this topic again. Should be before too long.


  13. Pingback: Hair Follicle Differentiation

  14. Pingback: Longevity of stem cells and the roles of stem cells in aging | AGING SCIENCES – Anti-Aging Firewalls

  15. rene says:

    Hair have 2 places with Stem Cells. One on Side and one under the bulp.
    I guess that Stem Cells produce progenitor cells wich protecs Androgen Rezeptors from Androgens.

    A very promising cur for baldness can could be Vitamin D Analog because its active the VDR rezeptor and activate stem cells.
    Aditional we can use a natural stem cell mobilizer nem like stem knie.
    (Contains Vitamin D, Beta-glucan, EGCG etc)

    Your Article about Fullerene is also Intressting there was also a link to a Study to promote hair growth with it. I have Shungit Stone where contains naturall fullerenes and i will try out as topical soloution.

    I guess from to much estrogen dht rising up that we dont transform to female.
    DHT tiggers TGF Beta 2 and specials DKK- 1 up which is blocking WTN Signals.

Leave a Reply