Growth Hormone and the Human Hair Follicle

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Dec 8;22(24):13205. doi: 10.3390/ijms222413205.


Ever since the discoveries that human hair follicles (HFs) display the functional peripheral equivalent of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, exhibit elements of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, and even generate melatonin and prolactin, human hair research has proven to be a treasure chest for the exploration of neurohormone functions. However, growth hormone (GH), one of the dominant neurohormones of human neuroendocrine physiology, remains to be fully explored in this context. This is interesting since it has long been appreciated clinically that excessive GH serum levels induce distinct human skin pathology. Acromegaly, or GH excess, is associated with hypertrichosis, excessive androgen-independent growth of body hair, and hirsutism in females, while dysfunctional GH receptor-mediated signaling (Laron syndrome) is associated with alopecia and prominent HF defects. The outer root sheath keratinocytes have recently been shown to express functional GH receptors. Furthermore, and contrary to its name, recombinant human GH is known to inhibit female human scalp HFs' growth ex vivo, likely via stimulating the expression of the catagen-inducing growth factor, TGF-β2. These limited available data encourage one to systematically explore the largely uncharted role of GH in human HF biology to uncover nonclassical functions of this core neurohormone in human skin physiology.

Keywords: growth hormone; hair follicle; insulin-like growth factor-1; somatotropic axis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hair Follicle / growth & development*
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Human Growth Hormone / blood*
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / metabolism
  • Skin / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Somatotropin
  • Human Growth Hormone