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Scientists may have discovered a breakthrough treatment that could help reverse hair loss by using microRNA. herkisi/Getty Images
  • Scientists have discovered that a type of microRNA may help treat hair loss.
  • This microRNA could aid hair regrowth by softening hair follicles, which naturally become stiffer as we age and contribute to hair loss.
  • According to experts, this type of microRNA could lead to the development of a new treatment for baldness.
  • More research on the effectiveness of treating hair loss with microRNA is needed in humans.

A promising new treatment for hair loss may be on the horizon, according to researchers.

A recent study in the journal PNAS found that increasing the production of a particular type of microRNA could aid in increasing hair growth and regeneration. This type of microRNA softens hair follicle cells, which become stiffer over time and lead to age-related hair loss.

Male pattern baldness, a type of hereditary hair loss, is common among men.

In fact, about two-thirds of men will experience an appreciable amount of hair loss by the time they reach age 35. And, by age 50, this figure rises to 85%. Additionally, a quarter of men will begin to lose hair before they are 21.

Hair loss can be troubling for men, with many reporting that their baldness makes them feel less attractive, depressed, or fearful of growing older.

According to board certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, who was not involved in the study, hair follicles have various stem cells responsible for regulating hair growth.

“This new study may have found a breakthrough in hair regeneration using small RNA particles or microRNA,” she explained.

“More specifically,” she noted, “miR-205 has been identified as an important microRNA that can potentially stimulate hair growth.”

Green said that RNA (ribonucleic acid) is present in all living cells. It acts as a messenger to carry instructions from our DNA to regulate protein production.

Hair follicles can become stiffer as we age, which, in turn, affects hair growth.

“In this study, researchers found that increasing the production of miR-205 softened the stem cells,” said Green. “By softening the hair follicle stem cells, hair growth increased in both young and old mice.”

The effect was fairly quick, as well. Green noted that there was increased hair growth after just ten days.

Dr. Ken L. Williams, Jr., a hair surgeon and founder of Orange County Hair Restoration in Irvine, CA, who was also not a part of the study, explained that current FDA-approved treatments for hair loss and thinning in both men and women include:

Hair restoration surgery is also a successful surgical decision for patients who meet criteria,” he added.

Green further explained that any treatment based on the current study would work via a different mechanism than what we currently have available.

“Minoxidil works by shortening the resting phase of the hair growth cycle and elongating the growth phase,” she said. “Minoxidil also reverses follicle miniaturization and stimulates circulation around the hair follicles.”

In the case of finasteride, it works by inhibiting DHT, which is a male hormone that is responsible for male pattern baldness. “Hair follicles are sensitive to hormonal changes and especially DHT,” she added.

Laser light therapy utilizes light in wavelengths ranging from red to infrared to stimulate tissue regeneration and repair.

Finally, she said, PRP involves injecting a concentration of platelets rich in growth factors, which improves the health of follicles, increases blood supply, and stimulates reparative cells.

Williams said, “The final outcomes or medical translation of these types of data is always promising, but is impossible to determine so early after discovery.”

However, he noted that it is possible that a new treatment will be developed based on these findings.

Green additionally cautioned that the study was only performed on genetically engineered mice. More research is needed before we will know if this process will work in humans, she advised.

However, if a new treatment does come to fruition, it will “significantly advance hair restoration,” Green concluded, noting that she believes that researchers will probably look at a topical treatment that delivers microRNA directly into the skin.

Williams said, however, that it is too early to know what type of delivery system will be created for miR-205, whether that would be a transdermal injection or an oral tablet.