No More Goodbyes for the Hair of People Undergoing Chemotherapy

Khryss | Published 2017-10-29 03:33

Save your life.. and your hair!

When one has cancer, you usually have to undergo chemotherapy to help stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. But not only is it painful, it also makes you bald as it affects the hair growth. Some people even choose not to undergo chemotherapy because of this--one study shows that 8 percent of women had considered refusing the treatment just to save their hair.

There are some available ways to keep your crowning glory, however, such as scalp-cooling caps wherein doctors freeze the scalp and prevent chemo drugs from flowing through hair follicles, or opt for hair loss treatments like minoxidil. However, scalp-cooling caps are expensive, make the chemo treatment longer, can cause headaches and only work for some. Moreover, a randomized trial of using minoxidil during chemo shows that it’s not that effective after all.

Now, a new study's about to solve this problem--with a protein. When undergoing a chemotherapy, a protein called p53 is activated. Such helps prevent tumours from growing but blocks another protein called WNT3a, which promotes hair growth.

Researchers from Taiwan and the US tried using WNT3a on mice’s skin to see if they would keep their fur when they administered chemo. First, they treated mice with a common chemotherapy agent. Then, they injected blue-colored microscopic beads soaked with the protein under the surface of the mice’s skin. Five days after the mice were injected with the protein, the areas treated still had fur while the untreated areas went bald. The researchers found that the protein boosts the number of stem cells in the base of hair follicles, which allows more hairs to grow.

But injecting people with WNT3a-soaked microscopic beads wouldn’t be safe. “We might need to inject it into the scalp using arrays of fine needles so that many of the hair follicles can be covered,” says Sung-Jan Lin at National Taiwan University and author of the study.

Lin and his colleagues are finding ways to administer chemicals that activate the hair-promoting protein, such as using it as a cream or gel to be applied and spread over the scalp. Soon, we'll have it: a hair-saving option for those who'll undergo chemotherapy!

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