Can microRNA cure hair loss?

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Hair loss causes many people to lose self-confidence, but now a cure for hair loss could be found in microRNA.

Before we delve deeper into how microRNA can help reverse hair loss, what are the current options for people with hair loss looking to regain their previous hair? One current option is Minoxidil, an over-the-counter generic medication. This chemical is an antihypertensive vasodilator containing bonds of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. Minoxidil is present in popular hair regrowth products like Regaine and Rogaine, to treat male-pattern hair loss. In products like Regaine, Minoxidil is provided in a foam or liquid which, as the chemical is soluble in water, can treat the scalp when it has water applied to it. Clinical hair regrowth with Minoxidil can take only 8 weeks to occur but can take unto 16 weeks to be visible under the naked eye. Although it may seem like Minoxidil is a wonder product there are many negatives to its use, like the side effects its usage causes. For example, the chemical often causes severe scalp irritation, chest pain, swelling in limbs, rapid weight gain, dizziness, rashes and more, all of which are not at all pleasant to have. Furthermore, Minoxidil only has a 60% chance of hair regrowth in people with hair loss, and seldom results in a full return to the maximum amount of hair scalp coverage a person once used to have.

A more effective but still not flawless treatment for hair loss is hair transplantation. This treatment usually involves taking hair follicles from other areas of the body apart from the scalp and putting the follicles into areas of the scalp with a lower concentration of hair. One way this treatment is better than Minoxidil is its success rate. Usually, at good hair transplant companies, the success rate for all of the transplanted follicles growing into more hair on the scalp is 80%. Furthermore, in most successful hair transplant patients, more transplants over the previously transplanted area are not required. However, there are are many cons to this treatment as well. To begin with, it is an extremely expensive treatment for most of the lower and middle classes. It can cost upwards of £15000 for some of the best hair transplant companies to do this procedure on you. On top of this insurance on these treatments are very expensive if the NHS does not fund the operation. Furthermore, patients often endure pain on their scalp after the procedure, sometimes excruciating, for up to a year or so. If that is not all, visible scars are often seen on patients’ heads after the operation, causing a lower self-confidence in these people, the opposite aim of the operation.1

So what treatment can be better than the most popular two in the world at the moment? Well, it has to do with microRNA. MicroRNAs are molecules found in small sacs, called exosomes, which help regulate the fashion in which genes send communications. This is very useful in hair regrowth treatment, as it means that these microRNAs can stimulate hair follicles to grow hair accordingly. Traditional hair transplants rely on hair follicles being stimulated once they are placed in a person’s scalp, The use of the microRNAs means that these follicles can be stimulated before they are placed as cells into the patient’s scalp. To facilitate this, the microRNAs are used on hair follicles in a 3D sphere as using a flat surface, like a petri dish, would not yield as many stimulated hair follicles, due to the high surface area of a sphere. Researchers from the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, carried out an experiment carrying out the above steps to try to cause hair regrowth in mice. Dr Ke Cheng, a professor at the university and the leader of the research team carrying out this experiment, confirmed that the increasing the microRNA, increased hair follicle activity and vice versa showing the experiment to be a success.2

Their discovery has a great chance to make hair transplants much more advanced in the future. This is good news for those who are expecting or already have hair loss, meaning that people’s self-confidences do not have to be hurt by a condition which perhaps now will have a treatment, which is cheap, safe and effective.


References

  1. Rees, V., 2020. Study Reveals Microrna As Promising Hair Regrowth Drug Target. [online] Drug Target Review. Available at: <https://www.drugtargetreview.com/news/65879/study-reveals-microrna-as-promising-hair-regrowth-drug-target/#:~:text=Researchers%20have%20revealed%20that%20the,say%20could%20promote%20hair%20regeneration.> [Accessed 11 August 2020].
  2. Huzar, T., 2020. Hair Regrowth: Could Microrna Lead The Way?. [online] Medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/hair-regrowth-could-microrna-lead-the-way> [Accessed 11 August 2020].

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