Hair growth depends on the health of dermal papillae (DP) cells, which regulate the hair follicle growth cycle.
Current treatments for hair loss can be costly and ineffective, ranging from invasive surgery to chemical treatments that don’t produce the desired result.
In a recent study from North Carolina State University, researchers discovered a microRNA (miRNA) that could promote hair regeneration. MiRNAs are small molecules that regulate gene expression.
They found this miRNA—miR-218-5p—plays an important role in regulating the pathway involved in follicle regeneration and could be a candidate for future drug development.
The finding is published in Science Advances.
Recent hair loss research has shown that hair follicles don’t disappear where balding occurs, they just shrink. If DP cells could be replenished at those sites, then the follicles might recover.
In the study, the team cultured DP cells both alone (2-D) and in a 3-D spheroid environment.
In a mouse model of hair regeneration, they looked at how quickly hair regrew on mice treated with 2-D cultured DP cells, 3-D spheroid-cultured DP cells in a keratin scaffolding, and the commercial hair loss treatment Minoxidil.
In a 20-day trial, mice treated with the 3-D DP cells had regained 90% of hair coverage at 15 days.
The team measured miRNAs in exosomes derived from both 3-D and 2-D DP cells.
In the 3-D DP cell-derived exosomes, they pinpointed miR-218-5p, a miRNA that enhances the molecular pathway responsible for promoting hair follicle growth.
They found that increasing miR-218-5p promoted hair follicle growth while inhibiting it caused the follicles to lose function.
The team says cell therapy with the 3-D cells could be an effective treatment for baldness, but people 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 it is possible to create a cream or lotion that has a similar effect with many fewer problems.
Future studies will focus on using just this miRNA to promote hair growth.
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