New Players Identified in Hair Loss Mechanisms

DKK2 Proposed to be Key Player of Blocking Growth.

It’s well known in the hair research world that a molecule known as WNT is important for hair growth. New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia shows that a protein known as DKK2 is responsible for blocking WNT from doing it’s job.

WNT signals are important in embryonic development and also have an important role in how cells signal with each other in adult life. WNT signals, when they are present, cause hair to grow. When they are absent, they cause hair loss stop growing or not grow at all.


In order to study why some parts of the body don’t grow hair and to better understand what signals hairs to not grow, researchers studied the plantar skin of mice. These areas are similar to the palms of human hands in some ways. They lack hair follicles. The researchers found high levels of Dickkopf 2 (DKK2) proteins in this area. Remarkably when mice were engineered to lack the DKK2 proteins, the hair grew in these areas.


The DKK2- WNT pathway is relevant to human hair growth - and that’s of course why this study is exciting. Previous research has suggested that genes like DKK2 are plausible genes that are implicated in the pathogenesis of male balding and female thinning. More understanding of this important area is likely to be highly relevant and likely to lead us in the direction of better treatments. A DKK2 drug inhibitor for example has potential to help hair loss.


Song et al. Regional Control of Hairless versus Hair-Bearing Skin by Dkk2. Cell Reports Nov 2018.

Heilmann-Heimbach S, et al. Meta-analysis identifies novel risk loci and yields systematic insights into the biology of male-pattern baldness. Nat Commun. 2017.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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