Hair loss therapy: New study suggests microRNA based products may work better than existing regeneration treatments

A group of researchers at the North Carolina State University claim that they have found an effective solution to promote hair regeneration and reverse hair loss.

Myupchar July 29, 2020 13:12:25 IST
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Hair loss therapy: New study suggests microRNA based products may work better than existing regeneration treatments

A group of researchers at the North Carolina State University claim that they have found an effective solution to promote hair regeneration and reverse hair loss.

The findings of the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, suggest that the solution is more effective and permanent than the treatments available currently.

Hair loss is different from hair shedding. Everyone sheds about 50-100 strands of hair a day, however, these usually grow back. Hair loss occurs when the hair doesn't grow back where it had shed.

About 2/3rd of the male population experience some amount of noticeable hair loss by the age of 35, as per the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, and it only worsens with age. The condition also affects women and can occur due to a variety of reasons, which range from side effects of medicines to androgenic alopecia (male/female pattern baldness). Hair loss that occurs due to reasons like medicine use usually stops when you deal with the cause behind it. However, hereditary hair loss does not revert and usually needs treatment.

Dermal papillae cells and hair follicles

As per the study, the growth of hair follicles depends on the dermal papillae (DP) cells and it has been shown in previous studies that hair follicles just shrink (and not disappear) from hair loss sites.

Based on this, the researchers now suggest that if we can somehow replenish the DP cells in the areas of hair loss, it may be possible to regenerate hair in those areas.

To study the effects of DP cells on hair growth, the research team at North Carolina State University treated shaved mice with DP cells cultured in 2 dimensional and 3-dimensional spheroid environments. A spheroid exactly recreates the microenvironment inside a hair follicle.

It has earlier been shown that when cultured in a flat or 2D environment, DP cells quickly lose their efficiency but they remain viable for long when cultured in a spheroid environment. Similar results were noted in the current study. So, only the therapeutic effects of 3D DP were studied on mice.

It was found that mice treated with 3D DP regained 90 percent of their hair coverage within 15 days. To compare the effects of the drug with traditional treatment, some mice were also treated with minoxidil, the drug that is traditionally used to treat hair loss. The latter group got only 35 percent of their fur coverage back in 15 days.

The role of miRNA

The DP cells exert their effects not only on the area where they are injected but also on the surrounding areas by releasing small vesicles called exosomes or secretomes. These secretomes have specific miRNAs, called miR-218-5p, that are directly associated with hair growth. MiRNAs are small RNA molecules that regulate the expression of various genes. This miRNA stimulates the pathways that help in the growth of hair follicles. The study found that when the levels of miR-218-5p go down, the hair follicles lost their function.

Explaining the importance of the study, Dr Ke Cheng, one of the lead researchers of the study, said in a news release, “Cell therapy with the 3D cells could be an effective treatment for baldness, but you have to grow, expand, preserve and inject those cells into the area...MiRNAs, on the other hand, can be utilized in small molecule-based drugs. So potentially you could create a cream or lotion that has a similar effect with many fewer problems.”

For more information, read our article on Hair loss.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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