US Pharm. 2018;43(8):4.

In news of great interest to men around the world that broke in late July, scientists were able to restore thick fur in test mice by causing and then turning off a particular cellular dysfunction. Could the researchers’ work give hope to legions of men longing for longer locks?

Keshav Singh, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) discovered that when a mutation leading to mitochondrial dysfunction is induced, the mouse develops extensive, visible hair loss in a matter of weeks. Turning off the gene responsible for mitochondrial dysfunction restores the mitochondrial function, and the mouse returns to thick fur, appearing the same a healthy mouse of the same age.

The potential benefit of the finding is not lost on Dr. Singh. “To our knowledge, this observation is unprecedented,” said Dr. Singh, a professor of genetics in the UAB School of Medicine. In humans, a decline in mitochondrial function occurs during aging, and mitochondrial dysfunction can spur age-related diseases. Depleted mitochontrial DNA is also associated with human cardiovascular disease, diabetes, age-associated neurologic disorders, and cancer.

“This mouse model,” Dr. Singh said, “should provide an unprecedented opportunity for the development of preventive and therapeutic drug development strategies to augment the mitochondrial functions for the treatment of aging-associated skin and hair pathology and other human diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction plays a significant role.”

The researchers induced the mutation when the antibiotic doxycycline was added to the mice’s food or drinking water. This led to depletion of mitochondrial DNA, owing to the resulting inactivity in the enzyme needed for its replication. In just a month, the mice displayed gray, reduced-density hair, hair loss, and lethargy.

In other research news breaking in July, Johns Hopkins investigators employed an experimental compound to reverse hair loss, hair whitening, and skin inflammation linked to human diets heavy in fat and cholesterol. The scientists say that the compound stops the production of fats called glycosphingolipids—major components of skin and other membranes.

It is established that mice fed a diet high in fat and cholesterol are more prone to hair discoloration, extensive hair loss, and skin inflammation, and feeding these animals the compound seems to reverse these symptoms. The Hopkins investigators, however, caution that the results do not mean that the same effects would occur in people or would be safe. Nevertheless, the findings shed light on possible pathways for addressing human hair loss.

Until these promising results translate into FDA-approved products, there are a number of remedies on the market today. In this issue, which focuses on men’s health, Melissa C. Jones, PharmD, BCPS, takes an in-depth look at available hair-loss remedies in the article, “Treatment Options for Androgenic Alopecia” (page 12).

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