Real Medicine, Studying Medicine

Ode to the Hair Follicle

The picture on the right illustrates vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder causing destruction of the melanocytes of the skin, resulting in hypopigmentation.

We had a patient like this today, only with a very severe form. What she also had was many small round spots of repigmentation, like the few round spots seen in the picture here.

So the question is, why, when the skin starts to re-pigment, does it come back in small ROUND spots? The answer will blow your mind:

Melanin is secreted by melanocytes – and when the skin’s melanocytes are depleted, the melanocytes interspersed in the hair follicles jump into action. And what shape are hair follicles…?

Hair follicles, apparently, do not only contain a melanocyte reservoir. If needed, these follicles can also produce additional collagen and keratin.

Imagine that… Once a month I pay someone to rip lots of hair straight out of my skin, and in the meantime the follicles are regular little wonders.

I like it. I like it a lot.

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4 thoughts on “Ode to the Hair Follicle”

  1. Remember that expression of terror, when the hair on your neck stands on end?
    The tiny, downy hair that grows there is called “vellus” hair.
    Interestingly enough, even though there is no hair at all on the palms and the soles of the feet, with a good enough practitioner even vitiligo there can be improved. They are, however, notoriously hard to treat.
    This does indicate that there must be some other reservoir of melanocytes BESIDES those in the hair follicles.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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