California university researchers have identified a single molecule believed to be key to controlling when hair follicle cells divide and when they die.
This discovery, recently published in the journal Developmental Cell, could treat baldness and potentially speed up wound healing because follicles are a source of stem cells.
What was discovered: Using mice models, the researchers determined that activating the signaling molecule SCUBE3 by the dermal papilla cells stimulated hair growth in mice as well as transplanted human scalp follicles.
The research, led by the University of California-Irvine, may offer a therapeutic treatment for androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss in both women and men.
“At different times during the hair follicle life cycle, the very same dermal papilla cells can send signals that either keep follicles dormant or trigger new hair growth,” Maksim Plikus, UC-Irvine professor of developmental and cell biology and one of the study’s authors, said in a university press release.
“We revealed that the SCUBE3 signaling molecule, which dermal papilla cells produce naturally, is the messenger used to ‘tell’ the neighboring hair stem cells to start dividing, which heralds the onset of new hair growth.”
The big picture: According to the Cleveland Clinic, androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness is the most common type of progressive hair loss disorder in men.
Half of the men in the world experience hair loss by age 50. About 70% of men will lose hair as they get older and 25% of bald men see first signs of hair loss before age 21, according to the clinic’s website.
Presently, there are just two drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that treat androgenetic alopecia — finasteride and minoxidil. Finasteride is only approved for use in men, and both drugs produce inconsistent results. Patients also need to take these drugs daily in order to see results.
“There is a strong need for new, effective hair loss medicines, and naturally occurring compounds that are normally used by the dermal papilla cells present ideal next-generation candidates for treatment,” Plikus said in a statement, adding, “Our test in the human hair transplant model validates the preclinical potential of SCUBE3.”
The university has filed a provisional patent application on the use of SCUBE3 and its related molecular compounds for hair growth stimulation.