By Alice Park, TIME, HEALTH MEDICINE, February 05, 2016.

Researchers have zeroed in on one the driving forces behind hair loss, and it’s closely related to aging.

Anyone who starts losing their hair is familiar with the phenomenon: you used to have an enviously full head of hair in your teens, but the older you get, the more you see in the shower drain and on your brush, and the less remains on your head. It’s nearly a universal fact of nature among mammals of the furry type that with age, thick coats of hair start to thin out.

Scientists have known that the reason for that has to do with the aging hair follicles, where hair roots begin. But exactly why do the hair follicles start to fail?

In a report published in the journal Science, Japanese researchers provide a possible answer. Hair is renewed by stem cells that are able to theoretically continue dividing and making new hair follicle stem cells, but eventually, these stem cells too start to age and fall apart. Led by Emi Nishimura at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, the group found that wear and tear on the DNA of these hair follicle stem cells causes chemical changes that push the hair follicle away from growing new hair. In fact, the hair follicle starts to shrink, getting ever smaller and making it more difficult for a new hair to grow.

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