400 hair follicle nerds

What is it about hair follicles (på svenska: hårsäckar) that’s fascinates us so much?
They have important roles in wound healing, are a perfect tool to study stem cells and can give rise to cancer – very good reasons to study them – but researchers seem to have a fascination beyond research. We also don’t know exactly why it is so, but we love to study them!

I was recently on the 7th world congress for Hair Research where 400 hair follicle nerds met. There I had a fun discussion about hair follicles, of course. We were a small group of scientists, one an expert in hair pigmentation, one in hair loss, one in how to culture follicles in a dish, one dermatologist and me. We discussed the different types of hair follicles covering our body like head hair, eyelashes, beard hair, the tiny hair on our arms, sparse hair on toes etc. and we came to the conclusion that the eyebrow hair follicles are extremely fascinating. The follicles themselves are quite large thus it would be great fun to study them, and at older age eyebrows often grow "wild". Which is amazing! However, our discussion was also about the important role of eyebrow hair for social communication: we lift one brow if we are suspicious, we move both down if we are worried and lift both up if we are surprised. Eyebrows are also a good tool for non-verbal communication over distance. Eyebrows is, shortly, more than just hair.

For me it was really refreshing, inspiring and fun to meet colleagues from all around the world who have this seemingly nerdy interest –hair follicle research – and to discuss many different aspects about this topic. I got also reminded how important it is to meet colleagues and share expert knowledge and enthusiasm.