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Hair loss may be reversible, according to scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who have helped create hair cells on the skin of mice.

The human head has 100,000 tiny hair follicles; each follicle grows a single hair. While it was thought that damaged follicles could never be replaced, the Penn study shows that new follicles, and consequently new hair, can be produced by a single gene, called wnt.

In the experiment, reports the BBC, small sections of the outer skin layer were removed from mice. The removal encouraged stem cell activity in that area and the production of hair follicles. If the wnt gene was blocked, no follicles were created; if the wnt gene was stimulated, even more follicles resulted.

Professor Des Tobin, from the University of Bradford in the U.K., told the BBC: "This paper provides convincing evidence that the skin has remarkable powers of regeneration, not just repair as previously known. Under the conditions peculiar to the wound-healing environment, the highly complex hair follicle can be created anew from apparently unremarkable cells of the healing epidermis and its underlying dermis." (The Advocate)

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