Scalp cooling physically protects hair follicles from chemotherapy

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Research from the University of Huddersfield (UK) shows that cooling the scalp physically protects hair follicles from chemotherapy drugs. It is the world’s first biological test that explains how the cooling of the scalp and the protection mechanism of the hair follicle really work.

Chemotherapy works on all cells in the body that are dividing rapidly. Hair is the second fastest dividing cell, which is why many chemotherapy drugs cause alopecia. The growing hair follicles are attacked, causing hair loss approximately two weeks after the start of chemotherapy treatment.

“Scalp cooling is currently the only treatment to combat ‘chemotherapy-induced alopecia’, yet little is known about its cytoprotective effect on human hair follicles,” explains study leader Nik Georgopoulos.

Until now, the most common and obvious assumption to describe how cooling the scalp worked was that cooling the scalp narrowed the veins, thus reducing the amount of blood flow, which meant that fewer chemotherapy drugs entered the hair follicle. .

“However, this is a really exciting discovery because our research now shows that it is not as simple as that. We have been able to measure the amount of chemotherapy drug that enters the cultured cells of the hair follicles and what we have found is that the Cooling dramatically reduces the amount of chemotherapy drug absorbed by rapidly dipping hair follicle cells, “he adds.

This means that, for the first time, there is evidence showing that cooling has a direct effect in reducing the amount of drug entering it and is not an indirect effect as previously thought with restricting blood flow.

“Our results demonstrate that attenuation of cell uptake of the drug represents at least one of the mechanisms that support the ability of cooling to rescue human keratinocytes from the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy drugs, supporting the clinical efficacy of cooling of the drug. scalp “, says the researcher.

In addition to providing evidence of how the treatment works, this center has also been working on developing innovative treatments related to cooling the scalp and individual 3D printed cooling caps.

“We had already shown that cooling to just 3-4 degrees lower can be the difference between cells surviving or dying. Now we have shown that a few degrees of temperature can also lead to a more drastic reduction in chemotherapy drug uptake by part of the cells. The more evidence we can provide, the more data designers will have to facilitate the design of a better plug. A better fit could mean a further reduction in temperature, so more efficient cooling means longer survival of the cells. follicles, which leads to a better result, “he concludes.

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