Hair loss can be quite problematic for those who experience it. Today, despite the progress we have made on several medical applications, there is still little that we can do for hair loss.
Now, researchers from North Carolina State University have identified a microRNA (miRNA) that could lead to hair regrowth. This miRNA, miR-218-5p, could be a promising candidate for future hair regeneration drugs.
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The new treatment is based on recent hair loss studies that show that hair follicles don't disappear where balding occurs. They simply shrink due to a decrease in blood flow. This means that if those shrinking dermal papillae (DP) cells could be replenished, they could possibly recover and start to produce hair again.
The researchers examined mouse models of hair regeneration and looked at how quickly hair regrew on the subjects treated with 2D cultured DP cells, 3D spheroid-cultured DP cells in a keratin scaffolding, and the hair loss treatment Minoxidil. A spheroid is a three-dimensional structure that mimics a cell's environment.
Impressively, the researchers found that mice treated with the 3D spheroid-cultured DP had regained 90% of their hair in just 15 days.
"The 3D cells in a keratin scaffold performed best, as the spheroid mimics the hair microenvironment and the keratin scaffold acts as an anchor to keep them at the site where they are needed," said Ke Cheng, Randall B. Terry, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine at NC State's College of Veterinary Medicine and professor in the NC State/UNC Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering.
"But we were also interested in how DP cells regulate the follicle growth process, so we looked at the exosomes, specifically, exosomal miRNAs from that microenvironment."
Exosomes are tiny miRNA-containing sacs secreted by cells. These miRNAs regulate gene expression and Cheng and his team found that they could promote the molecular pathway responsible for creating hair follicle growth.
More specifically, they found that increasing miR-218-5p promoted hair follicle growth, while blocking it caused the follicles to stop working.
Better yet, Cheng added that these miRNAs could be utilized in small molecule-based drugs offering a non-invasive treatment for baldness. Now, the researchers are focusing on studies that will use miRNA to promote hair growth. The current study is published in Science Advances.