Regrowing hair: Researchers may have accidentally discovered a solution

Feb 16, 2011
The CRF1/CRF2 receptor antagonist, astressin-B, injected intraperitoneally (ip) in CRF-OE mice with fully developed alopecia induces hair growth and pigmentation. Photographs: Row A: Male CRF-OE mice (4 months old) injected ip once daily for 5 consecutive days with saline at 3 days after the last injection and Row B: astressin-B (5 mg/mouse) at 3 days after the last ip injection, and Row C: the same mice as in the middle panel Row B at 4 weeks after the last ip injection. Credit: UCLA/VA

It has been long known that stress plays a part not just in the graying of hair but in hair loss as well. Over the years, numerous hair-restoration remedies have emerged, ranging from hucksters' "miracle solvents" to legitimate medications such as minoxidil. But even the best of these 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 have found a chemical compound that induces hair growth by blocking a stress-related hormone associated with hair loss — entirely by accident.

The serendipitous discovery is described in an article published in the online journal PLoS One.

"Our findings show that a short-duration treatment with this compound causes an astounding long-term hair regrowth in chronically stressed mutant mice," said Million Mulugeta, an adjunct professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a corresponding author of the research. "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."

The research team, which was originally studying brain–gut interactions, included Mulugeta, Lixin Wang, Noah Craft and Yvette Taché from UCLA; Jean Rivier and Catherine Rivier from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.; and Mary Stenzel-Poore from the Oregon Health and Sciences University.

For their experiments, the researchers had been using mice that were genetically altered to overproduce a stress hormone called corticotrophin-releasing factor, or CRF. As these mice age, they lose hair and eventually become bald on their backs, making them visually distinct from their unaltered counterparts.
The Salk Institute researchers had developed the chemical compound, a peptide called astressin-B, and described its ability to block the action of CRF. Stenzel-Poore had created an animal model of chronic stress by altering the mice to overproduce CRF.

UCLA and VA researchers injected the astressin-B into the bald mice to observe how its CRF-blocking ability affected gastrointestinal tract function. The initial single injection had no effect, so the investigators continued the injections over five days to give the peptide a better chance of blocking the CRF receptors. They measured the inhibitory effects of this regimen on the stress-induced response in the colons of the mice and placed the animals back in their cages with their hairy counterparts.

About three months later, the investigators returned to these mice to conduct further gastrointestinal studies and found they couldn't distinguish them from their unaltered brethren. They had regrown hair on their previously bald backs.

"When we analyzed the identification number of the mice that had grown hair we found that, indeed, the astressin-B peptide was responsible for the remarkable hair growth in the bald mice," Mulugeta said. "Subsequent studies confirmed this unequivocally."

Of particular interest was the short duration of the treatments: Just one shot per day for five consecutive days maintained the effects for up to four months.

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

So far, this effect has been seen only in mice. Whether it also happens in humans remains to be seen, said the researchers, who also treated the bald mice with 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. In fact, it is known that the stress-hormone CRF, its receptors and other peptides that modulate these receptors are found in human skin.

Explore further: Nervous system may play bigger role in infections than previously known

Provided by University of California - Los Angeles

4.9 /5 (44 votes)

Related Stories

New gene in hair loss identified

Apr 14, 2010

A team of investigators from Columbia, Rockefeller and Stanford Universities has identified a new gene involved in hair growth, as reported in a paper in the April 15 issue of Nature. This discovery may affect future resear ...

Recommended for you

Stroke damage mechanism identified

8 hours ago

Researchers have discovered a mechanism linked to the brain damage often suffered by stroke victims—and are now searching for drugs to block it.

User comments : 18

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rproulx45
not rated yet Feb 16, 2011
American science's proudest moment!
dogbert
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 16, 2011
Serendipity is good. Nobody likes a bald mouse.
SmartK8
not rated yet Feb 16, 2011
Power to the bald people. Pity, I got about 2 feet long hair.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2011
Now, how to get rid of my pubes permenantly? (No pun intended)
Moebius
2.3 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2011
So for those of us who are stress free this is no help. About the only stress I have is when I read some of the outrageously stupid posts in this forum.

I once read an amusing story about Noam Chomsky. He went to the dentist and was told he was grinding his teeth, a stress response. He didn't know he was doing it and his wife was told to watch him at night but she didn't see him doing it (a lot of teeth grinding happens at night). Then one day while he was reading the New York Times, as was his habit, she was watching him. He was grinding away without knowing it.
Infiniteloop
5 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2011
Oh my .. The holly grail ... How do I invest in this?
The reality is, is that if this works on human patients, it's going to be worth a fortune!!! I am sure there are teams all over the world working on this, for just that reason ... and now .. by mistake ... Classic!
Terrible_Bohr
2.8 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2011
This is great: they have ample time to get this (or a similar method) working in humans before the end of this decade. I feel relatively certain that I will begin balding somewhere in the neighborhood of 2020. Is it too much to expect the treatment will also be cheap by then?
Newbeak
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2011
If this stuff is legit,how come Jean-Luc sports a bald pate in the 24th century? Some sort of fashion statement?
ABSOLUTEKNOWLEDGE
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2011
owsome discovery

and very useless, 95 procent of man baldness is coaused by dht sesitivity not stress
Bog_Mire
3 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2011
stressed rats losing hair is vastly different from stressed humans losing hair IMHO. But invest away, you never know how much a stress-related baldness PREVENTION therapy might make.
Avitar
not rated yet Feb 17, 2011
How does astressin-B work on other gut/brain stress related disease like Type II diabetes? There are available lab mice suitable for testing that. Can anyone and find a poor Grad student a grant for a few bucks to try it out adn maybe save the country 100 billion a year?
Jayman
5 / 5 (2) Feb 17, 2011
I have been called a 'rat' before. Will it work on me?
gmurphy
not rated yet Feb 17, 2011
Outstanding research, simple, consistent observation is the bedrock of all the sciences. I would be interested to know how they define stress in this context?
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2011
Power to the bald people. Pity, I got about 2 feet long hair.


What are you, a Hobbit?
Beard
not rated yet Feb 18, 2011
Twenty years from now we're going to see throngs of elderly Fabio look-alikes.
SmartK8
5 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2011
Moebius: No, a girl. :D
ubavontuba
1.2 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2011
I'm not sure I'd want to grow mouse hair, but it might be better than nothing ...I suppose. :D

I wonder, if I had mouse hair and went to a stylist named Mickey, would I have a Mickey mouse?
neiorah
not rated yet Feb 21, 2011
This will be a good thing for older people and their thinning hair. Now no one will be able to see their scalps.....

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.