Hair, Fur and Cilia
Hair has always held us captive: a symbol of vitality, or of sexual attraction and youth. But what are its molecular secrets? And what are we learning about those other mysterious filaments: the hair-like cilia attached to almost every living cell? Bridget Kendall asks leading hair loss researcher Ralf Paus, medical geneticist Philip Beales, and artist Adeline de Monseignat whose sculptures of fur and hair look both dead and alive.
Photo: Hair on scalp (coloured scanning electron micrograph) Credit: Science Photo Library
Philip Beales is professor of medical genetics at University College London and a clinical scientist at Great Ormond Street hospital. He is also head of the cilia disorders laboratory. A cilium is a slender microscopic hair-like structure that extends like a tail from the surface of all our cells, and is vital for our body's healthy functioning. Professor Beales says the significance of the cilium is reflected in the fact that it is primordial, and ubiquitous in nature, from bacteria in volcano vents to fish, worms and insects. As a specialist in diseases that occur when cilia are not functioning, Professor Beales shares with us his latest research which discovered a link between obesity, diabetes and cilia disorders. Professor Beales is also the co-editor of Ciliopathies: A Reference for Clinicians.
Adeline de Monseignat
Ralf Paus is professor of cutaneous medicine at the University of Manchester and runs one of Europe's leading hair research groups in Manchester, and at the University of Münster, in Germany. Professor Paus specialises in promoting hair growth. Describing each hair follicle as a hormone factory, Professor Paus believes neurohormones play a vital role in hair growth: these are hormones with neurotransmitters which he has shown that both the brain and the hair follicle are able to produce and are used in the production of hair cells.
60 Second Idea to Change the World: Therapeutic Hair Massage
In our 60 second Idea to improve the world, the artist Adeline de Monseignat suggests having events in art galleries where people can go to exchange hair massages. She believes many of us enjoy hair massages, but rarely have a chance to experience them – except very occasionally at the hairdressers. She feels they would be beneficial in helping people relax and would stimulate hair growth.