Tag Archives: Allegheny Health Network

Bald? Help on the Horizon

Scientists now have a better understanding of how hair grows, making treatment of baldness a possibility.

It’s yet to become a hit in online chatrooms or a hot topic on medical blogs. But when it will, researchers like George Cotsarelis and Elaine Fuchs will surely attain cult status. After all, they are working on a vexatious problem that has troubled  and continues to trouble   countless number of men and women all their lives.

Both Cotsarelis, a dermatologist at the Pennsylvania University School of Medicine, and Fuchs, an experimental biologist at Rockefeller University, are trying to get to the bottom of the problem of hair loss, a condition   though not life threatening   that leaves many distressed and aghast.

The thinning of locks, which half the world population experiences by the age of 50, is not treated lightly by those who suffer from it, but there is no convincing cure for it yet. It’s another matter that quacks and cosmetic firms exploit this hapless situation to make a killing. Costly procedures like hair transplant may be better than the mere application of gels and oils, but they are yet to become a viable option.

Cotsarelis and Fuchs are trying to address this problem with the help of advanced cellular and molecular techniques. A therapy may still be far from reaching the clinic, but the scientists concede that now they at least have a better understanding of how hair grows.

“Over the last 10 years, there has been much progress in understanding hair follicular development. We believe this will translate into clinical benefits, but it is impossible to know when,” Cotsarelis told KnowHow.

He should know. After all, his team showed for the first time — in a paper in the journal Nature last May — that hair follicles can be regenerated. This put to rest a half-a-century-old belief that mammalian hair follicles form only during development.

Much to their surprise, Cotsarelis and his colleagues found that new hair follicles are formed in a mouse when it is wounded deeply enough (nearly five millimetres deep). More importantly, the new follicles were slightly different from the ones that develop during the embryo stage. While in embryos, follicles are produced by skin stem cells, the latter had very little to do in the follicular development in the wounded mouse. Instead, the epidermal cells — that give rise to the outermost layer of the skin — were reprogrammed to make hair follicles. The instruction for this, they found, came from a class of proteins called “wnts”. These wnts proteins are known to play a role in hair follicle development in an embryo.

Close observation revealed that when the wound is deep, stem cells are rushed to the area of injury. Unexpectedly, the regenerated hair follicles originated from non-hair-follicle stem cells.

“We’ve found that we can influence wound healing with wnts and other proteins that allow the skin to heal in a way that includes all the normal structures of the skin, such as hair follicles and oil glands,” Cotsarelis said.

By introducing more wnt proteins to the wound, the researchers could take advantage of the embryonic genes that promote follicular growth.

Conversely, by blocking the proteins, they could stop the production of hair follicles in the healed skin. Moreover, an increase in the availability of the wnt proteins also meant an increase in the number of new hair follicles.

The novel technique for which the Pennsylvania team received a patent is now being pursued by a new biotech firm called Focilla Inc, which Cotsarelis co-founded with the Boston-based PureTech Ventures. “If everything goes well, we could have a product in the market in four years,” David Steinberg of PureTech told KnowHow. The firm is confident that it will be a big player in the baldness treatment market, which in the US alone is said to be in the range of $ 2-4 billion.

When a human baby is born, some five million hair follicles cover its body. An average human head has 100,000 follicles spread across the scalp. For many, these follicles cease production with age. It is said that a healthy individual sheds around 100 strands a day. This is not a cause for worry as long as the hair is constantly replaced and the losses occur evenly around the whole scalp. Each follicle in a developing embryo receives a reservoir of stem cells that are capable of differentiating to produce hair. Each follicle can grow up to 20 individual strands of hair — of course one after another — during a person’s lifetime.

Scientists have always been stumped by the phenomenon of baldness because it is not ubiquitous in the animal kingdom. Only humans and the stumptailed macaque are known to suffer from androgenetic alopecia, as baldness is scientifically known. “We don’t know why,” says Cotsarelis.

Like Cotsarelis, Fuchs of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Rockefeller University was fascinated by skin stem cells, which unlike most other adult stem cells, can be easily grown in the laboratory. What intrigued her most was the skin stem cells’ ability to grow into two very distinct structures — skin and hair. Her inquiry as to how a skin stem cell decides to become skin or hair over the years has finally yielded some chemical clues.

In a paper in the February 2008 issue of Genes & Development, Fuchs, her postdoc student Michael Rendl, and others zeroed in on a protein called BMP which they found “ratchets up and clamps down” the activity of key genes in dermal papilla, a type of skin cell whose unique collection of proteins ultimately instructs skin stem cells to make hair follicles.

“Scientists don’t know how dermal papilla cells are programmed to provide the instructive signals to stem cells, but now we know that BMP signals play a crucial role,” Rendl observed in a release.

The work by Fuchs’ team has taken science a step closer to unlocking the secret of beautiful hair. And also perhaps an inch closer to finding a way to stem the abnormal thinning of locks.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)


Irritable Bowel Syndrom(IBS)


What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder characterized most commonly by cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. IBS causes a great deal of discomfort and distress, but it does not permanently harm the intestines and does not lead to a serious disease, such as cancer. Most people can control their symptoms with diet, stress management, and prescribed medications. For some people, however, IBS can be disabling. They may be unable to work, attend social events, or even travel short distances.


Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS. However, symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people have constipation, which means hard, difficult-to-pass, or infrequent bowel movements. Often these people report straining and cramping when trying to have a bowel movement but cannot eliminate any stool, or they are able to eliminate only a small amount. If they are able to have a bowel movement, there may be mucus in it, which is a fluid that moistens and protect passages in the digestive system. Some people with IBS experience diarrhea, which is frequent, loose, watery, stools. People with diarrhea frequently feel an urgent and uncontrollable need to have a bowel movement. Other people with IBS alternate between constipation and diarrhea. Sometimes people find that their symptoms subside for a few months and then return, while others report a constant worsening of symptoms over time.


Researchers have yet to discover any specific cause for IBS. One theory is that people who suffer from IBS have a colon (large bowel) that is particularly sensitive and reactive to certain foods and stress. The immune system, which fights infection, may also be involved.

  • Normal motility, or movement, may not be present in a colon of a person who has IBS. It can be spasmodic or can even stop working temporarily. Spasms are sudden strong muscle contractions that come and go.
  • The lining of the colon called the epithelium, which is affected by the immune and nervous systems, regulates the flow of fluids in and out of the colon. In IBS, the epithelium appears to work properly. However, when the contents inside the colon move too quickly, the colon looses its ability to absorb fluids. The result is too much fluid in the stool. In other people, the movement inside the colon is too slow, which causes extra fluid to be absorbed. As a result, a person develops constipation.
  • A person’s colon may respond strongly to stimuli such as certain foods or stress that would not bother most people.

Recent research has reported that serotonin is linked with normal gastrointestinal (GI) functioning. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or chemical, that delivers messages from one part of your body to another. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in your body is located in the GI tract, and the other 5 percent is found in the brain. Cells that line the inside of the bowel work as transporters and carry the serotonin out of the GI tract. People with IBS, however, have diminished receptor activity, causing abnormal levels of serotonin to exist in the GI tract. As a result, people with IBS experience problems with bowel movement, motility, and sensation—having more sensitive pain receptors in their GI tract.

In addition, people with IBS frequently suffer from depression and anxiety, which can worsen symptoms. Similarly, the symptoms associated with IBS can cause a person to feel depressed and anxious.

Researchers have reported that IBS may be caused by a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Studies show that people who have had gastroenteritis sometimes develop IBS, otherwise called post-infectious IBS

The following have been associated with a worsening of IBS symptoms

  • large meals
  • bloating from gas in the colon
  • medicines
  • wheat, rye, barley, chocolate, milk products, or alcohol
  • drinks with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, or colas
  • stress, conflict, or emotional upsets

Researchers have found that women with IBS may have more symptoms during their menstrual periods, suggesting that reproductive hormones can worsen IBS problems.

How is IBS diagnosed?

If you think you have IBS, seeing your doctor is the first step. IBS is generally diagnosed on the basis of a complete medical history that includes a careful description of symptoms and a physical examination.

There is no specific test for IBS, although diagnostic tests may be performed to rule out other diseases. These tests may include stool sample testing, blood tests, and x rays. Typically, a doctor will perform a sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy, which allows the doctor to look inside the colon. This is done by inserting a small, flexible tube with a camera on the end of it through the anus. The camera then transfers the images of your colon onto a large screen for the doctor to see better.

If your test results are negative, the doctor may diagnose IBS based on your symptoms, including how often you have had abdominal pain or discomfort during the past year, when the pain starts and stops in relation to bowel function, and how your bowel frequency and stool consistency have changed. Many doctors refer to a list of specific symptoms that must be present to make a diagnosis of IBS.

Symptoms include

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort for at least 12 weeks out of the previous 12 months. These 12 weeks do not have to be consecutive.
  • The abdominal pain or discomfort has two of the following three features:
    • It is relieved by having a bowel movement.
    • When it starts, there is a change in how often you have a bowel movement.
    • When it starts, there is a change in the form of the stool or the way it looks.
  • Certain symptoms must also be present, such as
    • a change in frequency of bowel movements
    • a change in appearance of bowel movements
    • feelings of uncontrollable urgency to have a bowel movement
    • difficulty or inability to pass stool
    • mucus in the stool
    • bloating

Once a person is diagnosed as IBS , I believe the best way to cure the disease PERMANENTLY is to practice daily CLEANSING PROCESS YOGA
alongwith doctor’s prescribed medicine.Ayurvedic herbal medicine is very good for this kind of disease.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Herbal Help

Natural help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Home Remedy for IBS

Homeopathy & IBS

Homeopathic Treatment for IBS