(ORDO NEWS) — We all know what goosebumps are, but why did we evolve to leave a mindless physical reaction to cold?
New research suggests an answer: regulating stem cells that control hair follicles and hair growth.
In a detailed analysis, the scientists found that certain muscles that contract when the goosebumps develop are associated with the sympathetic nervous system. When cold temperatures are felt, these muscles bridge the gap between the sympathetic nerves and the hair follicles.
In the short term, this causes bumpy hair and goose bumps; in the long term, it promotes hair growth. The researchers say this is an important link between stem cells, which the body can use to create other types of cells, and external stimuli.
While the connection between nerve and muscle was already known in this particular system, the connection with hair-regulating stem cells is a new discovery, and it is unusual that neurons tend to prefer connections to other neurons or synapse-like connections to muscles. Here, these synapse-like connections are created instead of stem cells, wrapping around them like ribbons.
The same squeezing of the muscles around the hair follicles results in small bumps in your skin, and scientists believe that in the days when we were much more attractive as a species, this would provide immediate protection from the cold.
The researchers intend to continue work on the interactions between the external environment and stem cells in the skin, including studying any other possible reactions that we are not aware of.
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