A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have identified a protein that helps with hair growth by regulating cytoskeleton reorganization. The group, led by Scott Snapper, looked at mice that were lacking the protein, N-WASP, to determine its effect on skin function and hair follicles.
Various human skin disorders are associated with aberrant regulation of the cytoskeleton, the scaffolding that supports the cell. This is because many physiological processes in the skin, including wound healing and hair follicle cycling, involve cytoskeleton reorganization regulated by the proteins Cdc42 and Rac1; N-WASP acts downstream of Cdc42.
Mice analysis showed that N-WASP helps outer-layer skin cells to proliferate. It also helps stimulate hair growth, due to its role in hair follicle cycling and in the maintenance and differentiation of hair follicle progenitor cells. The work at Mass General also demonstrated that N-WASP regulates the function of another protein, β-catenin, which is present in cells of the outer layer of the skin from hair follicles. N-WASP promotes expression of β-catenin-dependent genes, thereby supporting the differentiation of hair follicle progenitor cells.