This just in from Johns Hopkins Hospital researchers in Baltimore, MD. It may be possible to regrow hair in people. The target is for injury and burn victims that need to regrow hair and skin and not scar tissue. This would be a major benefit to a lot of people. Who knows, maybe it could be used for people who are going bald as well, but the research didn’t deal with this at all.
The discovery was in mice, however humans have the same compounds in their bodies so it should work in humans as well. The article was in the Cell Stem Cell journal on August 5, 2015. It turns out their is a protein that in the skin regeneration process is a master regulator.
By building a medication around this protein, there would be great possibilities to stimulate follicle and skin growth and decrease scarring during wound healing.
TLR3 & Wound Healing
The research started looking at double stranded RNA (dsRNA) because it is released during wound healing. Interestingly dsRNA is how some viruses store genetic information and the immune system picks up on this. The dsRNA is sensed by a protein called TLR3. Normally it realizes that there is an invading organism and turns on the immune system. In wound healing it instead turns on IL6 and STAT3 and promotes hair follicle regeneration. TLR3 also activates other molecules that help in skin and hair development.
You don’t think about it, but a lot of problems are caused by scarring. Some of which people don’t think about because it isn’t visible like a scar on the skin. A heart attach is a good example. Doctors are good at restoring blood flow but the long term problems are caused by scarring of the heart muscle so it is no longer as efficient. If a drug could be developed that helped tissue regrowth and decreased scarring it would have major benefits beyond just cosmetic.
They looked at two groups of mice. One could regrow hair after an injury and the other inbred group could not. They found that TLR3 levels were 3 times as high in the mice that could regenerate hair.
dsRNA Regeneration Effects
They also found that if they added dsRNA to the wound more hair follicles grew. If they added a substance that broke up dsRNA many fewer follicles were formed. It is their guess that procedures such as chemical peels and dermabrasion work due to the dsRNA process.
Useful results from this research may come faster than usual because work is already being done on drugs to promote TLR3 because of its involvement with immune activation. These same drugs can now be checked for their ability to stimulate skin and hair growth. However, Dr. Garza, the lead researcher pointed out that because of the pathways involved it may not have any impact on male pattern baldness and have no effect on other situations not involving scarring.