Scientists Find A Link Between The Lymphatic System & Hair Regrowth
There are a few areas that seem to be an endless well of scientific discovery of late: stem cells, the lymphatic system, and hair loss. Well, all three come into play in a new study published in Science.
Researchers were looking into stem cells and skin regeneration writ large, a complex and ever-evolving area of development. In the study, led by Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., the Rebecca C. Lancefield professor at the Rockefeller University, scientists confirmed that stem cells have the ability to instruct other stem cells to regrow new skin. But the totally new concept they found was the connection to the lymphatic system.
"The involvement of the lymphatic system in this process is a new concept," says Fuchs, "and might potentially provide new therapeutic targets for lymph-related conditions such as wound-healing defects and hair loss."
But first, what's the lymphatic system again?
If you're interested in the integrative medicine space, you've likely read about the lymphatic system before. (Or, if you're interested in holistic beauty or recovery, it comes up there a lot, too.) But as a refresher, let's revisit this complex and little-understood circulatory system.
"Lymph is a fluid that has no color, and it contains white blood cells, which are our key immune cells. Lymph covers the tissues in our body, and it has its own drainage system, which is called the lymphatic system," explains mbg Collective member and integrative physician Marvin Singh, M.D. "There is an intricate system of lymph capillaries (basically small drainage pipes) that collects all the fluid that occupies the spaces between different tissues in the body. Those little capillaries connect to larger pipes, called lymph vessels, which lead to lymph nodes."
The lymphatic system, he goes on to explain, acts as an internal cleaning system for our body—clearing out any buildup of toxins, helping our immune system, and balancing the fluid in our body.
So how does it help with hair regrowth and regeneration?
Let's start with stem cells' role in hair regrowth. As noted above, the researchers confirmed that stem cells—which are grouped in clusters called niches—are able to encourage one another to stimulate regeneration.
And these niches are all interconnected by, you guessed it, the lymphatic system. They discovered that surrounding each niche was an intertwined network of lymphatic capillaries connecting all of the stem cell niches. These hair-follicle stem cells were able to act as an "on-off" switch for drainage, controlling what fluid and cells were in the surrounding area, and ultimately, regeneration across more tissue.
And if scientists are able to tap into this complex system, maybe they'll be able to encourage growth across areas of the scalp that need it most, like thinning or bald spots. There's much more to be done post-research, but it's an interesting development. And just another example of how important a healthy lymphatic system is.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.