Chemotherapy patients have been offered a new hope in combating hair loss associated with cancer treatment.
Scientists have developed a strategy to protect the hair follicle from chemotherapy.
Researchers at The University of Manchester say it could lead to new treatments that prevent chemotherapy-induced hair loss - arguably one of the most psychologically distressing side effects of modern cancer therapy.
They have exploited the properties of a newer class of drugs called CDK4/6 inhibitors, which block cell division and are already medically approved as so-called "targeted" cancer therapies.
When the scientists bathed organ-cultured human scalp hair follicles in CDK4/6 inhibitors, the hair follicles were much less susceptible to the damaging effects of chemo agents called "taxanes".
"A pivotal part of our study was to first get to grips with how exactly hair follicles responded to taxane chemotherapy," Dr Talveen Purba, lead author on the study, said.
"We found that the specialised dividing cells at the base of the hair follicle that are critical for producing hair itself, and the stem cells from which they arise, are most vulnerable to taxanes.
"Therefore, we must protect these cells most from undesired chemotherapy effects - but so that the cancer does not profit from it."
Taxanes are very important anti-cancer drugs commonly used to treat patients with breast or lung carcinoma and particularly cause anxieties among breast cancer patients, many of whom suffer long-lasting hair loss.
Researchers hope their work, published in the EMBO Molecular Medicine journal, will support the development of externally applicable medicines that will slow or briefly suspend cell division in the scalp hair follicles of patients to mitigate against chemotherapy-induced hair damage.
Australian Associated Press