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Apr 01, 2014 12:37 PM EDT

Protein That Activates Hair Follicle Growth May Inhibit Fat Production, Baldness

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A protein that activates hair follicle growth may be able to prevent weight gain, according to a recent study.

Scientists from the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University College London discovered that hair growth activated fat tissue growth in the skin below the hair follicle could lead to the development of a cream to dissolve fat, according to a press release.

The study confirmed that changes in the hair growth cycle "led to fluctuations in the thickness of the underlying fat layer of the skin," researchers explained. This means that the skin could regulate fat production.

"The specific chemicals identified in this study could be produced synthetically and used in creams for topical application to the skin to modulate growth of fat beneath the skin," Rodney Sinclair, professor of dermatology at the University of Melbourne and Epworth Hospital, said in a statement. "A cream could trim fat specifically where it was applied by 'pausing' the production of factors that contribute to fat cell growth."

Researchers said the effect of changes in in the fat tissue on the synchronized patterns of hair follicle growth has long been established.

"This is the first demonstration that the opposite also holds true in that the skin below the hair follicle can regulate the development of fat," Sinclair said.

The discovery could significantly change doctors' approach to treating obesity and alopecia.  

Researchers their findings will affect future treatment of obesity, male and female pattern baldness and alopecia -- male and female baldness -- an autoimmune condition that affects one to two percent of the general population at some stage in their life.

This is the first research to confirm that the protein that activated hair follicle growth could also regulate fat production.

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