A new type of microneedle patch restored hair in mouse models

The hair started to regenerate within 13 days in animal experiments.
Ayesha Gulzar
Hair loss stock photo.
Hair loss stock photo.


Scientists are coming up with exciting possibilities to tackle hair loss. From dissolvable microneedle patches to 3D-printed hair farms and growing hair with a patient's cells, research in this field has come a long way.

Now researchers from China have used artificial intelligence (AI) to design microneedles patches that effectively restore hair in balding mice, according to a news release published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The microneedles patch works by neutralizing baldness-causing reactive oxygen species in the scalp and regenerating thicker and denser hair in animal experiments.

What causes hair loss?

Progressive hair loss is common in both men and women. The most common type of hair loss is known as androgenetic alopecia, also known as male or female pattern hair loss. According to the study, the condition affects 80percent of men and 50 percent of women.

Various factors, such as genetics, hormones, and environmental factors, are known to play a role in causing androgenetic alopecia. Oxidative stress is thought to be a key player in this condition, which can be driven by a surplus of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on the scalp that causes damage to cells responsible for follicle growth.

The body has a natural mechanism to eliminate these reactive oxygen species by producing antioxidant enzymes such as Superoxide dismutase (SOD). However, when these free radicals are too high, they can overwhelm the body's antioxidant enzymes that typically keep them in check.

Could AI be the answer to baldness?

Previously, researchers tried to create SOD enzyme mimics called "nanozymes" to attack oxygen free radicals. But so far, those that have been reported aren't very good at removing the radicals from the body.

So a team of researchers supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China turned towards machine learning, a form of AI, to see if it could help them design a better nanozyme.

Machine learning can extract information from a huge amount of data to determine the complex structure-property and composition–property relationships for desired compounds and materials. Based on tens of thousands of material information from databases, researchers came up with 91 different nanozyme candidates to predict a compound that would best behave like a superoxide dismutase enzyme.

The machine learning models predicted that manganese thiophosphate MnPS3 would have the most powerful SOD-like ability. Next, researchers synthesized MnPS3 nanosheets through the chemical vapor transport of manganese, red phosphorus, and sulfur powders.

In initial tests with human skin fibroblast cells, the nanosheets significantly reduced the levels of reactive oxygen species without causing harm.

Next, the scientists created a microneedle patch featuring the compound and designed it to diffuse deep into the skin of androgenic alopecia-affected mice to remove excess reactive oxygen species.

Within 13 days, the animals exhibited hair regeneration, with strands appearing thicker and denser than in mice treated with either testosterone or minoxidil (a commonly used drug for baldness).

The researchers explained that their study not only produced a nanozyme treatment for potential hair regeneration in humans but also proved the potential for computer-based methods for use in the design of future nanozyme therapeutics.

The study paper was published in ACS' Nano Letters.


Androgenetic alopecia (AGA) is a common form of hair loss, which is mainly caused by oxidative stress induced dysregulation of hair follicles (HF). Herein, a highly efficient manganese thiophosphite (MnPS3) based superoxide dismutase (SOD) mimic was discovered using machine learning (ML) tools. Remarkably, the IC50 of MnPS3 is 3.61 μg·mL–1, up to 12-fold lower than most reported SOD-like nanozymes. Moreover, a MnPS3 microneedle patch (MnMNP) was constructed to treat AGA that could diffuse into the deep skin where HFs exist and remove excess reactive oxygen species. Compared with the widely used minoxidil, MnMNP exhibits higher ability on hair regeneration, even at a reduced frequency of application. This study not only provides a general guideline for the accelerated discovery of SOD-like nanozymes by ML techniques, but also shows a great potential as a next generation approach for rational design of nanozymes.

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