Aug 27, 2021 – While some prefer the bald look, those unhappy about the loss of their hair might be interested in a new approach that scientists are using mechanical stimulation to encourage hair regrowth.
Male or female baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, affects more than half of middle-aged men in the United States. Although it’s less common in women, it can affect people’s body image and emotional health, explains co-author Fangyuan Li, PhD, of the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The effects can be severe, says Li, “especially on women and young people.”
There are over-the-counter drugs, but most of them don’t address the root cause of the problem, the researchers say.
Currently, the FDA-approved hair loss drugs are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). However, there are side effects and the treatments only work if used continuously over a long period of time.
Some people may choose to have a hair follicle transplant instead; But, Li explains, the operation is painful and not always successful, as it depends heavily on the quality of the donor hair follicles, which can vary.
To develop a new non-surgical option, the scientists, led by Jianqing Gao, Vice Dean of the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Zhejiang University, developed a dissolvable microneedle plaster to allow treatment near the roots of the hair under the skin.
Without hair transplant
Male or female hair loss can be permanent if there aren’t enough blood vessels around the hair follicles to supply nutrients and other essential molecules. A build-up of reactive oxygen in the scalp can kill cells that would otherwise grow new hair.
In an earlier study, the researchers found that nanoparticles containing cerium, a silvery-white metal, could mimic enzymes in the body that can relieve oxidative stress.
The scientists coated cerium nanoparticles with a biodegradable compound.
Then they made the microneedle plaster by pouring a mixture of hyaluronic acid – a substance that grows naturally in human skin – with cerium-containing nanoparticles into a mold.
The tiny needles don’t hurt when used, Li says, because they treat an area under the skin with no pain receptors.
The researchers tested control patches and the cerium-containing patches on male mice with bald patches created by a hair removal cream. Both applications stimulated the formation of new blood vessels around the mice’s hair follicles. But those treated with the nanoparticle patch showed faster signs of hair recovery at the root.
The mice also had fewer oxidative stress compounds in their skin. The use of microneedle patches resulted in faster hair regrowth compared to a cream-based treatment and could be used less frequently.
And while the idea is not ready to be tried on people, it represents an inventive step in tackling a common problem.