Hair in health and disease: an introduction

  • Taneeta Ganguly
  • Pratima Karnik
Part of the Human Health Handbooks no. 1 book series (HHH, volume 1)


The hair follicle is a sensing, reactive, dynamic and complex skin appendage that offers many essential functions and requires a specific molecular environment to remain fully functional. Apart from providing an insulating layer in animals, hair serves as an aid in camouflage for survival and provides sensory, tactile information about the environment. Hair may also be of importance in attracting mates by offering insight into an individual’s health and vitality through its color, distribution, or quality. Hair follicles are formed from epidermal-dermal interactions and modeling during the first trimester in humans. Hair growth is a unique and complex process that involves continuous cycles of growth, resorption, rest and renewal. The hair follicle is constantly exposed to the environment and suffers direct damage from the sun, the air, and water. Exposure to foreign chemicals may also cause damage to the hair shaft and follicle. There are numerous hair diseases and the hair follicle is involved in over a thousand systemic diseases including genetic disorders. The social function of hair is the foundation for a multibillion dollar industry focused on presenting, augmenting, preserving, or removing hair.


hair biology stem cells pigmentation hair loss psychosocial 



Bone morphogenetic protein 1


Bone morphogenetic protein 2


Bone morphogenetic protein 4


Bone morphogenetic protein receptor type IA


Casein kinase 1


Casein kinase 5


Casein kinase 10


Casein kinase 14


Casein kinase 15


Casein kinase 19


Cut-like homeobox 1




Desoxyribonucleic acid


Epithelial cadherin


Ectodysplasin A


Ectodysplasin A receptor


Epidermal growth factor receptor


Forkhead box N1


Glioma-associated oncogene family zinc finger 1


Hepatocyte growth factor


Homeobox c13


Keratin 15


Keratinocyte growth factor


Encoding β-galactosidase


Lymphoid enhancer-binding factor 1


Leucine-rich repeat-containing G protein-coupled receptor 5


LIM homeobox 2


Melanocyte stimulating hormone homeobox 2


Neural cell adhesion molecule


Platelet-derived growth factor α polypeptide


Nuclear factor of activated T-cells cytoplasmic, calcineurin-dependent 1


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor


Patched homolog 1


Stem cell factor


Sonic the hedgehog


Sex determining region Y-box 9


Transcription factor 3


Transforming growth factor beta receptor 11


Wingless-type MMTV integration site family member 5a


Wingless-type MMTV integration site family member 10B



The writing of this chapter was made possible in part by a grant from the North American Hair Research Society (NAHRS) to TG and an NIH NIAMS grant R01 AR056245 to PK.


  1. Abdel-Malek, Z., Suzuki, I., Tada, A., Im, S. and Akcali, C., 1999. The melanocortin-1 receptor and human pigmentation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 885, 117–133.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bhushan, B., Wei, G. and Haddad, P., 2005. Friction and wear studies of human hair and skin. WEAR 259, 1012–1021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Botchkarev, V.A. and Paus, R., 2003. Molecular biology of hair morphogenesis: development and cycling. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution 298, 164–180.Google Scholar
  4. Cash, T.F., 2001. The psychology of hair loss and its implications for patient care. Clinical Dermatology 19, 161–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chase, H.B., Rauch, R. and Smith, V.W., 1951. Critical stages of hair development and pigmentation in the mouse. Physiological Zoology 24, 1–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Franbourg, A., Hallegot, P., Baltenneck, F., Toutain, C. and Leroy, F., 2003. Current research on ethnic hair. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 48, S115-119.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fuchs, E., 2009. The tortoise and the hair: slow-cycling cells in the stem cell race. Cell 137, 811–819.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gilhar, A. and Kalish, R.S., 2006. Alopecia areata: a tissue specific autoimmune disease of the hair follicle. Autoimmunity Reviews 5, 64–69.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldberg, L.J. and Lenzy, Y., 2010. Nutrition and hair. Clinical Dermatology 28, 412–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hunt, N. and McHale, S., 2005. The psychological impact of alopecia. BMJ 331, 951–953.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ibraimov, 2007. The evolution of body heat conductivity, skin, and brain size in human. The Journal of Human Ecology 21, 95–103.Google Scholar
  12. Karnik, P., Tekeste, Z., McCormick, T.S., Gilliam, A.C., Price, V.H., Cooper, K.D. and Mirmirani, P., 2009. Hair follicle stem cell-specific PPARgamma deletion causes scarring alopecia. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 129, 1243–1257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lemieux, J., Maunsell, E. and Provencher, L., 2008. Chemotherapy-induced alopecia and effects on quality of life among women with breast cancer: a literature review. Psychooncology 17, 317–328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Otberg, N., Finner, A.M. and Shapiro, J., 2007. Androgenetic alopecia. Endocrinology Metabolism Clinics of North America 36, 379–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Paus, R. and Cotsarelis, G., 1999. The biology of hair follicles. New England Journal of Medicin 341, 491–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rantala, 2007. Evolution of nakedness in Homo sapiens. Journal of Zoology 273, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shimomura, Y. and Christiano, A.M., 2010. Biology and genetics of hair. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 11, 109–132.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Sinclair, R., 1999. Diffuse hair loss. International Journal of Dermatology 38 Suppl 1, 8–18.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sonino, N., Fava, G.A., Mani, E., Belluardo, P. and Boscaro, M., 1993. Quality of life of hirsute women. Postgraduate Medical Journal 69, 186–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sperling, L.C., 2009. An atlas of hair pathology with clinical correlations, the encyclopedia of visual medicine series. Informa healthcare, New York, NY, USA.Google Scholar
  21. Stenn, K.S. and Karnik, P., 2010. Lipids to the top of hair biology. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 130, 1205–1207.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Stenn, K.S. and Paus, R., 2001. Controls of hair follicle cycling. Physiological Reviews 81, 449–494.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Tobin, D.J., 2009. Aging of the hair follicle pigmentation system. International Journal of Trichology 1, 83–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Vogt, A., McElwee, K.J. and Blume-Peytavi, U., 2008. Biology of the hair follicle. In: Blume-Peytavi, U. (ed.) Hair growth and disorders. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany, pp. 2–5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Wageningen Academic Publishers 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taneeta Ganguly
    • 1
  • Pratima Karnik
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of DermatologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations