Aug 27, 2021 – While some prefer the bald look, those unhappy with their hair loss might be interested in a new approach where scientists use mechanical stimulation to promote hair regrowth.
Male or female pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, affects more than half of middle-aged men in the United States. Although it is less common in women, it can affect people’s body image and emotional health, says study co-author Fangyuan Li, PhD, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Zhejiang University. in Hangzhou, China. The impact can be severe, says Li, “especially on women and young people.”
There are over-the-counter remedies, but most of them don’t address the root causes of the problem, researchers say.
Currently, FDA approved drugs for hair loss include minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). But there are side effects, and treatments only work if used continuously for an extended period of time.
Some people may opt for a hair follicle transplant instead; But, says Li, the surgery is painful and not always successful because it depends a lot on the quality of the donor’s hair follicles, which can vary.
Seeking to develop a new non-surgical option, the scientists, led by Jianqing Gao, vice-dean of the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Zhejiang University, designed a soluble micro-needle patch to provide treatment near the hair roots under the skin.
Without hair transplant
Male or female baldness can be permanent when there are not enough blood vessels surrounding the hair follicles to provide nutrients and other essential molecules. A buildup of reactive oxygen in the scalp can cause cells to die that would otherwise grow new hair.
In a previous investigation, researchers found that nanoparticles containing cerium, a silvery-white metal, can mimic enzymes inside the body that can help alleviate oxidative stress.
Scientists coated cerium nanoparticles with a biodegradable compound.
Then, they made the micro-needle patch by pouring a mixture of hyaluronic acid – a substance that grows naturally in human skin – with nanoparticles containing cerium into a mold.
The small needles don’t hurt when applied, Li says, because they provide treatment to an area under the skin without pain receptors.
The researchers tested control patches and those containing cerium on male mice with bald spots created by hair removal cream. Both applications stimulated the formation of new blood vessels around hair follicles in mice. But those treated with the nanoparticle patch showed faster signs of hair recovery at the root.
The mice also had less oxidative stress compounds in their skin. Using the Microneedle patch resulted in faster hair regrowth, compared to a cream treatment, and could be applied less frequently.
And while the idea is not yet ready to be tried out on people, it represents an inventive step forward in solving a common problem.
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