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Skin Pharmacol. 1994;7(1-2):20-6.

Androgen action in cultured dermal papilla cells from human hair follicles.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Bradford, UK.


Androgens are major regulators of human hair growth with paradoxically different effects on hair follicles depending on their body site. They stimulate terminal growth in many regions including the face, have no effect on eyelashes, but may cause inhibition and balding on the scalp in genetically disposed individuals. How this occurs is unknown. However, androgens may act on the hair follicle via the cells of the dermal papilla; these would then influence the other cells of the hair follicle by altering the production of regulatory substances such as growth factors and/or extracellular matrix components. Therefore, primary lines of dermal papilla cells have been established from androgen-sensitive hair follicles, such as beard, and control, relatively androgen-independent, non-balding scalp cells and their mechanism of androgen action has been compared. Isolated beard dermal papillae were larger than those from scalp follicles. Although dermal papilla cells did not respond to in vitro androgens by alterations in growth, androgen-dependent dermal papilla cells contained higher levels of specific, low capacity, high affinity androgen receptors than non-balding scalp cells. The ability of the cells to metabolise testosterone to 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone in culture also varied in parallel to that predicted from studies of hair growth in the 5 alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome. These results support the hypothesis that androgens act via the dermal papilla. They also show that dermal papilla cells retain differences in gene expression in culture which appear to correspond with their androgenic response in vivo. Further studies of such cells should help elucidate why bald men can grow beards!

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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