Because it is on the cell surface, Christiano thinks she will be able to easily develop drugs to combat wooly hair that could be applied directly to the scalp or skin.
Christiano compares this cell surface protein to a lock.
“It basically sits there waiting for a key to come along and trigger a mechanism inside the cell that will lead to the events involved in hair growth or hair loss. So in the field of drug discovery, these lock proteins are the ones that are most easily 'druggable' meaning it’s the easiest to find a suitable key to unlock their function,” she says.
But Christiano also thinks that drugs could be developed to reduce excessive hair growth. And now the fun part. She hopes to also find ways to change curly hair to straight or vice versa—not with an iron or a perm, but with drops or foam that would actually change the way your hair grows. How does Christiano feel about science being used for cosmetic purposes?
“I think in dermatology, one of the advantages of our discoveries is that they have lots of immediate clinical applications, and it would be great if all of our discoveries were used for medical conditions like medical forms of hair loss. But many times there’s immediate translation into the cosmetics arena so if people can, you know, improve their appearance using science, then I think that’s a great thing."
Although Christiano only studied the genes in a particular population she says that the results, for the first time, give insight into the genes that may control hair texture in other populations who do not have hair abnormalities.
PUBLICATION: Nature Genetics, online February 24, 2008
AUTHORS: Yutaka Shimomura, Muhammad Wajid, Yoshiyuki Ishii, Lawrence Shapiro, Lynn Petukhova, Derek Gordon & Angela M Christiano
RESEARCH FUNDED BY: National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases