Alopecias - Practical Evaluation and ManagementEditor(s): Ioannides D. (Thessaloniki)
Tosti A. (Miami, Fla.)
Age-Related Hair Pigment LossTobin D.J.
Centre for Skin Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
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Humans are social animals that communicate disproportionately via potent genetic signals imbued in the skin and hair, including racial, ethnic, health, gender, and age status. For the vast majority of us, age-related hair pigment loss becomes the inescapable signal of our disappearing youth. The hair follicle (HF) pigmentary unit is a wonderful tissue for studying mechanisms generally regulating aging, often before this becomes evident elsewhere in the body. Given that follicular melanocytes (unlike those in the epidermis) are regulated by the hair growth cycle, this cycle is likely to impact the process of aging in the HF pigmentary unit. The formal identification of melanocyte stem cells in the mouse skin has spurred a flurry of reports on the potential involvement of melanocyte stem cell depletion in hair graying (i.e., canities). Caution is recommended, however, against simple extrapolation of murine data to humans. Regardless, hair graying in both species is likely to involve an age-related imbalance in the tissue's oxidative stress handling that will impact not only melanogenesis but also melanocyte stem cell and melanocyte homeostasis and survival. There is some emerging evidence that the HF pigmentary unit may have regenerative potential, even after it has begun to produce white hair fibers. It may therefore be feasible to develop strategies to modulate some aging-associated changes to maintain melanin production for longer.
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