Molecular genetic and endocrine mechanisms of hair growth
The prenatal morphogenesis of hair follicles depends upon a precisely regulated series of molecular genetic processes. Hormones and their receptors play prominent roles in modulating postnatal hair cycling, which recapitulates some aspects of morphogenesis. The responses to androgen are the most obvious of these. The postnatal androgen sensitivity of pilosebaceous units in different skin areas is programmed during prenatal development to permit clinical outcomes such as hirsutism and pattern baldness. Thyroid hormone, glucocorticoids, insulin-like growth factor-I, and prolactin have clinically significant effects on specific aspects of hair growth. The nuclear receptors vitamin D receptor and retinoid X receptor are essential for postnatal hair cycling. Other hormones have less clear effects on hair growth. Advances in research on the interaction of hormone target genes with the biological processes involved in hair morphogenesis and cycling can be expected to improve management of hirsutism and alopecia.