A team of scientists at the University of Manchester, UK, claim to have discovered a protein “code” that instructs cells to sprout hair. The research was targeted at helping people with ectodermal dysplasia, an inherited condition that is characterized by the abnormal development of hair, skin, nails, teeth, and sweat glands.

“Which cells are transformed into hair follicles is determined by three proteins that are produced by our genes,” says Denis Headon, PhD, who led the research.

The scientists reported that by sending a code to more cells than usual, they were able to breed mice with more fur—a feat that could potentially be replicated in humans. The research identified how one of the proteins working outside of the cell interacts at a molecular level to determine an individual’s hair pattern as the embryonic skin spatially organizes itself.

[news.yahoo.com, August 30, 2006]