A team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, has discovered a signalling molecule that stimulates hair growth in the human body. The molecule called SCUBE3 acts as an activating agent that contributes to hair growth. In a recent study, researchers examined the dermal papilla cells, the signal-making fibroblasts present at the bottom of each hair follicle, and the genetic structure that gives them the ability to regulate hair growth. These dermal papilla cells can either make the follicles dormant or trigger them to proliferate hair growth.

The SCUBE3 are activating molecules that help generate this functionality of dermal papilla cells. Maksim Plikus, the corresponding author of the study, said in a statement, “We revealed that the SCUBE3 signalling molecules, which dermal papilla cells produce naturally, is the messenger used to ‘tell’ the neighbouring hair stem cells to start dividing, which heralds the onset of new hair growth.”

The researchers made this discovery with the help of a mouse model. They microinjected SCUBE3 into mouse skin in which human scalp follicles had been transplanted. This activity resulted in new growth in the dormant human follicles as well as the surrounding mouse follicles. “Studying this mouse model permitted us to identify SCUBE3 as the previously unknown signalling molecule that can drive excessive hair growth,” said study’s co-first author, Yingzi Liu.

The research was published in Developmental Cell.

Researchers believe that the study may contribute to devising therapeutic treatment for androgenetic alopecia, a common hair loss condition that is prevalent in both men and women. “These experiments provide proof-of-principle data that SCUBE3 or derived molecules can be a promising therapeutic for hair loss,” said co-first author, Christian Guerrero-Juarez.

The research validates the preclinical potential of SCUBE3 and can induce the production of new, effective, and naturally occurring compounds that aid hair loss in men and women. Currently, there is less availability of oral medicines that help the consumer curb hair loss.

Only two medicines – finasteride and minoxidil – are approved by the Food and Drug Administration that are used to treat androgenetic alopecia. Furthermore, these drugs are not universally effective and have to be consumed daily to maintain their effect.


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