Researchers from North Carolina State University (NC State) have identified a microRNA (miRNA) that could promote hair regeneration. This miRNA (miR-218-5p) plays an important role in regulating the pathway involved in follicle regeneration, and could be a candidate for future drug development. Hair growth depends on the health of dermal papillae (DP) cells, which regulate the hair follicle growth cycle. Current treatments for hair loss can be costly and ineffective, ranging from invasive surgery to chemical treatments that do not produce the desired result. Recent hair loss research indicates that hair follicles don’t disappear where balding occurs, they just shrink. If DP cells could be replenished at those sites, the thinking goes, then the follicles might recover. A research team led by Ke Cheng, PhD, the Randall B. Terry, Jr. Distinguished Professor in Regenerative Medicine at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Professor in the NC State/UNC Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, cultured DP cells both alone (2D) and in a 3D spheroid environment. A spheroid is a three-dimensional cellular structure that effectively recreates a cell’s natural microenvironment. In a mouse model of hair regeneration, Dr. Cheng looked at how quickly hair regrew on mice treated with 2D cultured DP cells, 3D spheroid-cultured DP cells in a keratin scaffolding, and the commercial hair loss treatment Minoxidil. In a 20-day trial, mice treated with the 3D DP cells had regained 90% of hair coverage at 15 days. “The 3D cells in a keratin scaffold performed best, as the spheroid mimics the hair microenvironment and the keratin scaffold acts as an anchor to keep them at the site where they are needed,” Dr. Cheng says.
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