Crew cuts, bobs, dreadlocks and Afros; there’s endless ways to style your hair. Whichever look you pick, at the root of it the same process plays out. Hair grows out from hair follicles in the scalp. These follicles pass through different phases, including active growth, anagen, and massive cell death, catagen. Researchers grew human hair follicles in the lab as mini-organs (pictured) to investigate these processes. They found that during anagen considerable amounts of autophagy (red) – the controlled destruction of cells – occurs, as revealed by fluorescent microscopy. Preventing autophagy, by reducing levels of a gene vital to this process, hastens the onset of catagen. Conversely, applying the key ingredients of an anti-hair loss product enhances autophagy and prolongs anagen. This mini-organ system highlights the importance of autophagy in hair growth but also provides a useful model for studying autophagy, whose function in the human body is poorly understood.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.