Interesting news for those struggling with hair loss – it might not be all related to genetics, as conventional wisdom dictates.
Research presented on Wednesday at the 28th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress (EADV) in Madrid, Spain, indicates that exposure to air pollutants, called particulate matter (PM), is linked to hair loss in humans.
According to a release, the researchers exposed cells from human scalps at the base of the hair follicles — called human follicle dermal papilla cells — to particulate matter dust and diesel particulate. Then, the researchers, after waiting 24 hours, performed a blotting procedure to detect the levels of specific proteins in the hair cells. Their results showed that the particulate matter dust and diesel particulate decreased levels of β-catenin, the protein responsible for hair growth and morphogenesis.
Pretty compelling findings, but what’s particulate matter and can it be avoided?
Particulate matter is a phrase used by scientists to describe a mixture of solid particles and droplets that are found in the air we breathe. There are two categories of PM: PM10, particles that have a diameter of 10 micrometers or smaller, and PM2.5 which are 2.5 micrometers or smaller. How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single human hair — it’s about 70 micrometers in diameter — making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
Both PM10 and PM2.5 are linked to various health conditions, such as heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory problems, and are considered major pollutants. Fine particles are also the main cause of haze and reduced visibility in parts of the United States, including many of our national parks and wilderness areas, according to the EPA.
PM comes from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, diesel and from industrial activities like mining, building and the manufacturing of materials like cement, ceramics and bricks.
"While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, COPD and CVD are well established there is little to no research on the effect of particular matter exposure on the human skin and hair in particular,” the study’s lead researcher, Hyuk Chul Kwon from the Future Science Research Centre in the Republic of Korea, said. “Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on human follicle dermal papilla cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”
Right now, not much is known about the real impact of PM on your hair follicles, but according to the EPA you can minimize your exposure to them by checking the Air Quality Index. This will tell you if the outdoor air is clean or polluted, along with any health risks that might be a concern.
While it may not be the perfect fix, checking pollution levels is likely more healthy than eating French fries, as a different study led people to do.
Professor Junji Fukuda of Japan’s Yokohama National University said his team was able to mass-prepare thousands of “hair follicle germs” in a form of silicone called dimethylpolysiloxane. The researchers were able to transplant the cultured follicles onto mice and see further hair growth.
McDonald’s uses dimethylpolysiloxane as an anti-foaming agent in its frying oil for French fries, Chicken McNuggets and Filet O’ Fish sandwiches, and apparently some outlets were pushing the idea that eating fries would cure baldness.
Professor Fukuda said this won’t work. “I have seen online comments asking, ‘How many fries would I have to eat to grow my hair?’” he relayed. “I’d feel bad if people think eating something would do that!”
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