Stress blocker helps hair grow back

2011-02-17 07:26
Washington - US researchers looking at how stress affects the gut stumbled upon a potent chemical that caused mice to re-grow hair by blocking a stress-related hormone, said a study on Wednesday.

While the process has not yet been tested in humans, it grew more hair in mice than minoxidil, the ingredient in Rogaine, a popular treatment for baldness, said the study in the online journal PLoS One.

"This could open new venues to treat hair loss in humans through the modulation of the stress hormone receptors, particularly hair loss related to chronic stress and aging," said co-author Million Mulugeta.

Researchers from University of California Los Angeles and the Veterans Administration discovered the chemical compound "entirely by accident", said the study.

Scientists were using genetically engineered mutant mice that were altered to produce too much of a stress hormone called corticotrophin-releasing factor, or CRF. The chronic stress condition makes them lose hair on their backs.

Stressed-out mice

They injected a chemical compound called astressin-B, developed by the Salk Institute, into the mice to see how the CRF-blocker would affect gastrointestinal function.

When they saw no effect at first, they continued for five days. The researchers completed their gastrointestinal tests and put the mice back in cages with their hairier counterparts.

When they returned to get the stressed-out mice three months later for more tests, they discovered they could no longer tell them apart because the mice had grown all the hair they had lost.

"Our findings show that a short-duration treatment with this compound causes an astounding long-term hair re-growth in chronically stressed mutant mice," said Mulugeta of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

The short five-day time span of treatments brought hair growth effects that lasted up to four months, which was also surprising to researchers.

"This is a comparatively long time, considering that mice's life span is less than two years," Mulugeta said.

Researchers gave the bald mice treatments of "minoxidil alone, which resulted in mild hair growth, as it does in humans. This suggests that astressin-B could also translate for use in human hair growth," said the study.
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