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Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Hairy Mice Hint at Baldness Remedy
24 November 1998 6:00 pm
A protein involved in cancer can also stimulate new hair growth in mice, suggesting a possible approach for curing baldness. The protein, called b-catenin, is part of a biochemical pathway that leads to most cases of colon cancer. But mice with extra b-catenin in their skin develop new hair follicles, a team reports in tomorrow's Cell.
To test whether b-catenin was involved in hair follicle development in embryos, Elaine Fuchs and her postdoc Uri Gat of the University of Chicago created mice with extra copies of the b-catenin gene. Before introducing the gene into the animals, Gat linked it to a regulatory sequence that would cause the gene to be expressed only in skin cells.
Mice with the extra b-catenin got new hair follicles even as adults. (Mice and humans normally are born with all of their hair follicles.) These follicles filled in the spaces between existing ones, but not did not appear where no hair existed before, such as on foot pads. On the dark side, however, the researchers found that benign tumors sometimes formed in the hair follicles b-catenin mice. Thus, while the demonstration that b-catenin plays a role in hair follicle formation is a "breakthrough," says Randall Moon, a developmental biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, "we must be very careful" about b-catenin's tumor-promoting potential.
Because b-catenin activity can also contribute to tumor development, Fuchs hopes to learn which specific genes trigger hair growth, and how b-catenin activity differs in embryonic versus tumor cells. The question is, "can we separate tumorigenesis from hair follicle morphogenesis," she says. If they can, then perhaps her ideas about manipulating this growth pathway to cure baldness wouldn't be so hair-raising.