Hair-Raising Research: Salk Scientists Find Surprising Link Between Immune System and Hair Growth; Study Highlights How Current Treatments for Alopecia Work on a Cellular Level

Salk Institute
Salk scientists have uncovered an unexpected molecular target of a common treatment for alopecia, a condition in which a person’s immune system attacks his/her own hair follicles, causing hair loss. The findings, published in Nature Immunology on June 23, 2022, describe how immune cells called regulatory T cells interact with skin cells using a hormone as a messenger to generate new hair follicles and hair growth. “For the longest time, regulatory T cells have been studied for how they decrease excessive immune reactions in autoimmune diseases,” says corresponding author Ye Zheng, PhD, Associate Professor in Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis. “Now, we’ve identified the upstream hormonal signal and downstream growth factor that actually promote hair growth and regeneration completely separate from suppressing immune response.” The Nature Immunology article is titled “Glucocorticoid Signaling and Regulatory T Cells Cooperate to Maintain the Hair-Follicle Stem-Cell Niche.”
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