Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hair Loss Health Center

Font Size

Banishing Baldness?

Scientists Inch Closer to Figuring Out How Hair Grows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 31, 2008 -- How does hair grow? We really don’t know. It’s a fascinating and complex system of chemical signals being sent to the follicles to tell them when to produce and when to rest. But it’s still largely a mystery.

Now scientists at Stanford are a step closer to cracking the code of hair growth.

They discovered that in mice, a certain molecule, called laminin-511, sends a signal to cells urging hair follicles to grow.

Could this lead to the death of the comb-over?

“Perhaps,” says Stanford lead researcher Jing Gao, MD, in prepared statements. “Now we have a signal protein that can support the microenvironment for hair development, and maybe also for hair renewal."

Researchers believe this chemical signal may also play a role in how other body parts, like the kidneys, eyes, ears, nose, and face, develop. Or it could also be instrumental in telling the body how to create arms and legs.

For the study, the researchers genetically engineered mice embryos so they lacked laminin-511. They discovered that as mammals develop, the molecule laminin-511 acts like a good hostess at a cocktail party, bringing together two nervous people and getting them to talk to each other.

In this case the molecule brings together two cell compartments of the skin. Those cells basically start to chat, triggering a cascade of information that leads to creating hair follicles.

"There are a lot of different causes of hair loss. Further research will test whether any forms of hair loss are influenced by laminin-511," study co-author Peter Marinkovich, of Stanford's Program in Epithelial Biology, says in a news release.

"Injecting laminin-511 into the skin might, under some circumstances, promote hair growth," he says.

If that works, then Marinkovich says the laminin-511 could be used as a drug, slipped under skin where you want hair to grow. It could also potentially block hair growth by injecting antibodies against laminin-511.

The research team included members from Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Osaka University, and the Washington University School of Medicine.

The results are published in the Aug. 1 issue of Genes & Development.

Today on WebMD

hair in hairbrush
Ways to go about it naturally.
Young woman with thick curly hair
Causes and solutions.
man with thinning hair
How to keep the hair you have.
Closeup of Hairbrush with Hair Loss
Understand the basics.
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Balding man in mirror
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Young woman with thick curly hair
hair problems