On October the 1st on Reddit, PLOS Science Wednesday AMA (ask me anything) there was a lengthily online session of questions and answers with two hair loss experts from China and California, Dr. Zhengquan Yu and Dr. Maksim Plikus. Dr Yu in fact is an associate professor at the China Agricultural University, which is not a place you would usually find hair loss research taking place, however a huge amount of hair loss related research has taken place in the last few years. Dr Yu, earlier this year published a co-authored document on the influence of microRNA (miR-22) in hair loss in mice on PLOS which you can view by clicking here.
Some answers given on AMA were actually quite humorous, one stood out in particular and made me chuckle regarding the potential of creating hairy goats and creating tiny pigs for pets! Bizarre, however Dr Plikus’s responses were very interesting and on form. Below are some of the questions and answers which have a more informal and interesting approach:
Question from “Wkbrdnjoe”: “Now that you guys have found positive results in mice, what is the next step? Testing humans?”
Answer from Maksim Plikus: “Mouse findings would certainly have to be validated in humans. Currently, pilot testing on human hair follicles is possible using two experimental approaches: (i) organotypic hair follicle culture, and (ii) human-on-mouse xenografts. Anagen phase hair follicles, including human follicles, can continue to grow in vitro under specialized culture conditions for approximately one week. Human hair follicles grafted on immune compromised mice can grow for many months, imitating their normal, long-lasting anagen phase. Both approaches are widely used in human hair follicle research. Importantly, human hair follicles significantly differ from mouse in terms of signaling regulation. For instance, while human hair follicles are highly sensitive to androgen signaling, mouse follicles are not. Therefore, mice can not recapitulate the pathogenesis of human androgenetic alopecia.”
Swooping who is a famous hair loss forum member was answered by Plikus with a very detail and explained response which was:
“Your knowledge on androgenetic alopecia already appears to be pretty extensive. As you can appreciate, it has a complex mechanism, therefore many if not all factors that you mentioned are probably involved in its pathogenesis. What is important is to figure out which ones are upstream and which are downstream. This would affect the therapeutic potential of the targets. As I already mentioned in another reply, rodents and mice specifically, are not an appropriate model for studying androgenetic alopecia. Mouse hair follicles grow very differently from human scalp follicles. Mouse dorsal hairs grow only for about 2 weeks and attain 0.7-1cm in length. This is equivalent to human scalp vellus hair. Moreover, mouse follicles do not respond to androgens the same way human follicles do, and mice do not develop androgenetic alopecia in response to testosterone treatment. This limited the research progress in androgenetic alopecia field. However, we now have organotypic culture system and human-on-mouse xenograft model that can be used for studies on human follicles.”
Probably the most hopeful response from Plikus was: “Recent studies showed that dormant hair follicles in patients with androgenetic alopecia maintain their key stem cell population. Please refer to this study: link. This suggests that as long as the signaling mechanism of androgenetic alopecia pathogenesis can be interrupted, dormant scalp hair follicles can regrow. For instance, this 2003 study showed that grafting of vellus human scalp follicles onto mouse partially restores their normal growth characteristics: link.”
Here are some quotes from Yu based on his work on the study of miR-22:
“Based on this study, miR-22 antimir could be an effective drug for hair loss.”
“miR-22 antagomir or other anti-miR-22 oligonucletides could be used to inhibit miR-22 function, which would prevent hair loss or maintain prolonged follicle life.”
“I think that our findings provide a new therapeutic target to treat hair loss in way of microRNA. The cause of hair loss is pretty complex, it is hard to develop effective treatment for all patients. However, inhibition of miR-22 could benefit a certain number of patients whose hair loss caused by increasing miR-22.”
You can find the full online session of Yu and Plikus’s hair loss research’s questions and answers on AMA by clicking here.
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