Scientists find way to make aging hair regrow by manipulating stem cells

The solution worked in mice both young and old.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Hair regrowth.jpg
Hair regrowth.

sefa ozel/iStock 

Northwestern scientists have discovered a new method for helping aging hair regrow in mice.

The method relies on hair follicle stem cells getting stiff as they age, making it harder for them to grow hair. But if the hair follicle’s stem cells are softened, they are more likely to produce hair.

Northwestern scientists conceived a way to soften those stem cells to enable them to grow hair again. This is according to a press release by the institution.

In a study conducted in genetically engineered mouse models, the scientists found that they could soften the stem cells by boosting the production of a tiny RNA, miR-205. When stem cells were genetically manipulated to produce more miR-205, it enhanced hair growth in young and old mice. 

They used advanced microscopy tools, including atomic force microscopy, to measure the hair’s stiffness.

“They started to grow hair in 10 days,” said corresponding author Rui Yi, the Paul E. Steiner Research Professor of Pathology and professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. 

“These are not new stem cells being generated. We are stimulating the existing stem cells to grow hair. We often still have stem cells, but they may not be able to generate the hair.

Stimulating hair growth

“Our study demonstrates the possibility of stimulating hair growth by regulating cell mechanics. Because of the potential to deliver microRNA by nanoparticles directly into the skin, next, we will test whether topically delivered miR-205 can stimulate hair growth first in mice. If successful, we will design experiments to test whether this microRNA can promote hair growth potentially in humans,” added Steiner in the statement.

The study was published this week in the journal PNAS.

In July 2022, a team of scientists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) zeroed in on the single chemical key to hair growth and fall. This chemical is the transforming growth factor (TGF) beta, a small protein that works outside the cells and is involved in cell signaling. TGF-beta is the sole chemical involved in both the activation of cell division inside the hair follicles and bringing it to an end.

In November of 2022, researchers from China used artificial intelligence (AI) to design microneedles patches that effectively restored hair in balding mice. In animal experiments, the microneedles patch worked by neutralizing baldness-causing reactive oxygen species in the scalp and regenerating thicker and denser hair.

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