Hair Research

macilwee_labThis laboratory is dedicated to understanding the biology of the human hair follicle as it relates to the skin and a variety of immunologic and developmental human diseases in general. We know that the hair follicle is metabolically one of the most rapidly proliferating units of the skin. This has significant health implications.

We now know that the hair follicle has a role to play in wound healing and in the development of skin cancer. It is known that in many cases that the cells that are involved in regeneration of healing skin are derived from the hair follicle. This represents a new understanding of the reliance of the body on hair as a facilitator for renewal.

The laboratory conducts research on a range of hair follicle related issues including:

  • inflammatory hair loss (alopecia areata, scarring alopecia)
  • hormone-related hair loss (male pattern baldness)
  • hair follicle growth and cycling
  • the role of the hair follicle in cutaneous wound healing and tissue regeneration
  • hair follicle associated neoplasias including basal cell carcinomas
  • hair follicle inductive behaviour of hair follicle derived dermal papilla cells (follicular neogenesis)

A key objective of the laboratory is to unlock the links between the immune system and disordered hair growth, and the link between hormones and aging with hair growth. This will teach us much about hormones, growth, and aging in general in the body – three areas that influence normal and diseased human physiology. The hair follicle is an ideal model system for studying the relationships between the dermis and the epidermis, which in turn provides significant insights into epithelial-mesenchyme interactions.

The Hair Research Laboratory is closely linked with the Hair Clinic at The Skin Care Centre.

Lab Leader

Dr. Kevin J. McElwee

Lab Location

Vancouver General Hospital Research Pavilion


Ms. Gigi Leung
Ms. Noushin Akhoundsadegh
Dr. Hongwei Guo

Visiting Scholar

Dr. Hiromi Endo


Mr. Victor Gao

Major Investigative Technologies Utilized

  • Microarray
  • Quantitative RT-PCR
  • Tissue culture
  • Immunohistology
  • Disease models

Recent Publications

  1. Benefit of different concentrations of intralesional triamcinolone acetonide in alopecia areata: An intrasubject pilot study. Chu TW, AlJasser M, Alharbi A, Abahussein O, McElwee K, Shapiro J. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2015 Aug;73(2):338-40.
  2. Hair follicle mesenchyme-associated PD-L1 regulates T-cell activation induced apoptosis: a potential mechanism of immune privilege. Wang X, Marr AK, Breitkopf T, Leung G, Hao J, Wang E, Kwong N, Akhoundsadegh N, Chen L, Mui A, Carr N, Warnock GL, Shapiro J, McElwee KJ. J Invest Dermatol. 2014 Mar;134(3):736-45.
  3. Freyschmidt-Paul P, McElwee KJ, Hoffmann R, Sundberg JP, Vitacolonna M, Kissling S, Zoller M. Interferon-gamma-deficient mice are resistant to the development of alopecia areata. Br J Dermatol. 2006 Sep;155(3):515-21.
  4. Lu W, Shapiro J, Yu M, Barekatain A, Lo B, Finner A, McElwee KJ. Alopecia areata: pathogenesis and potential for therapy. Expert Rev Mol Med. 2006 Jun 20;8(14):1-19.