Hair regrowth: Could microRNA lead just how?

Hair regrowth: Could microRNA lead just how?
New research in animals has discovered a microRNA that seems to modulate the growth of hair.

The analysis, which appears in the journal Science Advances, may lay the groundwork for future hair regrowth treatments that are more effective and less invasive compared to the current options.

Hair loss is commonly associated with growing older. However, it can also be due to hormone changes, together with environmental and genetic factors.

Key treatments for hair thinning are minoxidil and finasteride. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved both treatments, neither is specially effective, and both require frequent reapplication.

As the authors of today's study note, “Both were created not for hair thinning treatment but serendipity.”

As a result, scientists are exploring alternative methods to stimulate hair regrowth. Research typically targets encouraging the hair follicles - the elements of the skin that grow hair - to move from a resting state to a dynamic state.

Rather than transplanting hair roots, that can be costly and relies on a ready way to obtain donors, newer research has attemptedto stimulate hair follicle cells in the laboratory. Scientists then apply these cells directly to the region of the scalp that's balding.

However, research has shown that for this to be effective in stimulating growth, the hair follicle cells require culturing in the right conditions. These conditions involve a 3D sphere.

The hair follicle cells have to talk to other cells to shift the hair follicle from a passive to a dynamic state. They do that best in a 3D environment, rather than a set 2D environment.

3D cultured cells
In today's study, the researchers commenced by corroborating this previous research. They did this by treating mice with 2D cultured follicle cells, 3D cultured follicle cells in a keratin scaffold, and minoxidil.

Much like previous research, they discovered that the 3D cultured follicle cells transplanted onto the regions of baldness were far better than either the 2D cultured follicle cells or minoxidil. After 15 days, the mice that underwent treatment with the 3D cultured follicle cells recovered 90% of their hair.

Dr. Ke Cheng, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, NEW YORK State University, Raleigh, and leader of the study, notes, “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 website where they are needed.”

“But we were also enthusiastic about how [dermal papillae] cells regulate the follicle growth process, so we viewed the exosomes, specifically, exosomal [microRNAs] from that microenvironment.”

Dermal papillae (DP) cells help regulate hair follicle activity. MicroRNAs are molecules that help regulate just how genes send communications. They are located in small sacs, referred to as exosomes.

The researchers looked at the exosomes of both 2D and 3D cultured cell follicles. They noticed that in the 3D cultured cell follicles, the microRNA miR-218-5p was encouraging the gene communication that signals hair growth.

They confirmed this when they found that increasing the microRNA increased hair follicle activity, whereas inhibiting it stopped the hair follicle from functioning.

Future treatments?
The team’s finding is potentially valuable, as as the implantation of 3D cultured cell follicles is effective in stimulating hair follicle activity, the procedure of transplantation is laborious and costly.

“Cell remedy with the 3D cells could possibly be a powerful treatment for baldness, but you have to grow, expand, preserve, and inject those cells in to the area. [MicroRNAs], however, can be utilized in small molecule-based drugs. So potentially, you could create a cream or lotion which has a similar effect with many fewer problems. Future studies will focus on using just this [microRNA] to promote hair growth.”

- Dr. Cheng
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