IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN THAT STRESS PLAYS A PART IN HAIR LOSS, and over the years, numerous hair-restoration remedies have emerged, ranging from “miracle solvents” to medications such as minoxidil. But even the best have shown limited effectiveness.
Now, a team led by researchers from UCLA and the Veterans Administration that was investigating how stress affects gastrointestinal function may accidentally have found a chemical compound that induces hair growth. The serendipitous discovery is described in an article published in the online journal PLoS One.
For their research, the scientists injected mice that had been genetically altered to overproduce a stress hormone called corticotrophinreleasing factor, or CRF, with a compound, astressin-B, designed to block the action of CRF. Mice genetically altered to overproduce CRF exhibit signs of chronic stress, including baldness. The goal of the research was to observe how the CRF-blocking ability of astressin-B affected gastrointestinal-tract function.
The initial results were unpromising; a single injection of astressin-B had no effect, so the investigators continued the injections over five days to give the peptide a better chance of working. There still were no significant findings.
About three months later, the investigators returned to these mice to conduct further studies and found they couldn’t distinguish them from their unaltered brethren. They had regrown hair on their previously bald backs.
The scientists confirmed that the previously bald mice had indeed regrown the hair on their backs, and that the hair growth was sustained for a period of about four months, which is a relatively long time for an animal that lives less than two years.
The effect has been seen only in mice, and it remains unclear whether astressin-B would have the same result in humans, but further study may reveal if “this could open new avenues to treat hair loss in humans,” says Million Mulugeta, D.V.M., Ph.D., adjunct professor of medicine in the Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.