Hair Biology Workshop

A review by Gill Westgate

Hair Biology research has developed in both breadth and depth since the 1970’s fuelled by pioneering work to understand the role of the dermal papilla in hair growth induction as well as bringing minoxidil to market as a topical hair growth treatment. The academic and clinical community of hair researchers share fundamental understanding of hair growth and the various types of hair loss with a wide global audience through regular international congress events. However, there are relatively few opportunities for scientists working in industry to access this fascinating topic in a more educational setting. The proDERM Academy Hair Biology Workshop was designed with this as it’s primary aim and the lectures were given by acknowledged experts in this field.

Participants were welcomed to the workshop by Academy host Klaus Peter Willhelm of proDERM. Gill Westgate shared some insights into the evolutionary history of hair and then Fraser Bell reviewed the hair care market and current trends in hair care product development. Gill Westgate continued with introduction to hair follicle structure, terminology and the basis for hair fibre formation. Des Tobin gave a lecture on hair pigmentation in which he explained the chemistry and cell biology of melanogenesis in the hair follicle as well as genetic diversity and later explained the changes in hair colour with ageing and greying. Much of what happens in hair biology is related to the hair growth cycle as was explained by Gill Westgate in an introduction to this topic and this was followed by an insight into the importance of hair follicle stem cell populations in the hair cycle by Claire Higgins based on her recent research and highlighted the importance of telogen and exogen in hair follicle stem cell biology. Day one was completed with insights into the future when Mike Philpott explained how recent findings at the molecular level is driving research into follicle neogenesis and how the new science of Epigenetics could impact in hair biology.

The focus for day 2 was clinical/cosmetic aspects of scalp and hair fibre as well as in new aspects for measuring aspects of hair growth and product efficacy. Klaus Peter Wilhelm reviewed the more common scalp conditions as well as touching on some forms of Alopecia that are of increasing prevalence. Gill Westgate explained what is known about the separate causes of male and female pattern hair loss, including the role of androgens and how this links to the genetics of hair loss in men but not women. Claire Higgins provided perspectives on how hair biology models can be used in research and how although we are still reliant on mouse models to study new hair follicle growth, in vitro models can still be useful. Most hair care scientists in industry want to understand the interaction of the hair fibre with products and treatments and how hair shape and type influences this. In the final session, Fraser Bell described the structure of hair and research into how this structure is impacted by various types of damage and how products mitigate this. The formation of curly hair was reviewed by Gill Westgate and she described that the follicle inner root sheath seems to hold one of the keys to hair shape. Marianne Brandt concluded the workshop lectures by describing the many and varied methods for hair evaluation and how these are linked to product claims.

The workshop moved to the proDERM laboratories where participants were initially led through demonstrations of the hair claims substantiation methods ‚Anti Dandruff Efficacy‘ and ‚Hair Growth Efficacy‘ – both applying image analysis methods. The course ended with the presentation of diverse biophysical hair measurements such as Anti-Frizz, Hair Volume, Tensile Test and Combing Force in the in-vitro laboratory of proDERM.

The overwhelming positive feedback received from both attendees and faculty is motivation and encouragement for a repetition of this workshop.