Following historical “tracks” of hair follicle miniaturisation in patterned hair loss: Are elastin bodies the forgotten aetiology?

May 2021

The Institute of Trichologists’  Member Dr Hugh Rushton collaborated in a  study that followed historical “tracks” of hair follicle miniaturisation in patterned hair loss.

ABSTRACT: Pattern hair loss (PHL) is a chronic regressive condition of the scalp, where follicular miniaturisation and decreased scalp hair coverage occurs in affected areas. In all PHL cases, there is a measurable progressive shortening of the terminal hair growth duration, along with reduced linear growth rates. In both genders, PHL initially shows an increase in short telogen hairs ≤30 mm in length, reflecting a cycle completion of under 6 months in affected terminal hair follicles. To understand the miniaturisation process, we re-examine the dynamics of miniaturisation and ask the question, “why do miniaturised hair follicles resist treatment?” In the light of recent developments in relation to hair regeneration, we looked back in the older literature for helpful clues “lost to time” and reprise a 1978 Hermann Pinkus observation of an array of elastin deposits beneath the dermal papilla following subsequent anagen/telogen transitions in male balding, originally described by Arao and Perkins who concluded that these changes provide a “morphologic marker of the entire biologic process in the balding scalp.” Thus, we have reviewed the role of the elastin-like bodies in hair pathology and we propose that alterations in elastin architecture may contribute to the failure of vellus-like hair reverting back to their terminal status and may indicate a new area for therapeutic intervention.

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