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Scientists have found a way to quickly restore hair to balding people

A novel molecule, SCUBE3, has been found to be a potential therapeutic option for androgenetic alopecia and strongly stimulates hair growth, reports ScitechDaily.

Photo: IStock

A signaling molecule known as SCUBE3, discovered by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, is able to cure androgenetic alopecia, a common type of hair loss in both women and men.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Developmental Cell, uncovered the exact mechanism by which dermal papilla cells, specialized signaling fibroblasts found at the bottom of each hair follicle, stimulate new development. Although the critical role of dermal papilla cells in the regulation of hair growth is well known, the genetic basis of the activating chemicals involved is little understood.

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“There is an urgent need for new effective hair loss drugs, and naturally occurring compounds that are commonly used by dermal papilla cells represent ideal next-generation treatment candidates,” says Maxim Plikus, MD, UCI Professor of Development.

“At different times in the life cycle of the hair follicle, the same cells of the dermal papilla can send signals that either keep the follicles in a dormant state or start the growth of new hair,” Maxim Plikus said. The papilla, naturally produced, is the messenger used to “tell” neighboring hair stem cells that they are about to divide, which heralds the start of new hair growth.”

In order for mice and humans to develop hair effectively, cells in the dermal papilla must produce activating chemicals. The dermal papilla cells in people with androgenetic alopecia malfunction, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the normally large amount of activating chemicals. For this study, a mouse model with excessive body hair and hyperactivated dermal papilla cells was created. This model will help researchers learn more about the regulation of hair growth.

"Examining this mouse model allowed us to identify SCUBE3 as a previously unknown signaling molecule that can cause excessive hair growth," said co-author Yingji Liu, a UCI doctoral student in developmental and cell biology.

Further tests confirmed that SCUBE3 activates hair growth in human follicles. The researchers microinjected SCUBE3 into the skin of mice transplanted with human scalp follicles, inducing new growth in both dormant human follicles and surrounding mouse follicles.

"These experiments provide supporting data that SCUBE3 or derivative molecules may be promising therapeutic agents for hair loss," said co-author Cristian Guerrero-Juarez, UCI researcher in mathematics.

There are currently two drugs on the market, finasteride and minoxidil, that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride is only approved for men. Both drugs are not universally effective and must be taken daily to maintain their clinical effect.

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UCI has filed a provisional patent application for the use of SCUBE3 and related molecular compounds to stimulate hair growth. Further research will be carried out at the Plikus laboratory and at Amplifica Holdings Group Inc., a biotechnology company co-founded by Plikus.

The research team included medical professionals and scientists from the UCI, San Diego, China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

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