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Signalling molecule moves hair follicle niche fibroblasts to a hyper-activated state

Photo by BlaiserPascal via Wikimedia Commons

A mesenchymal niche factor signalling molecule called SCUBE3 has been identified by University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers. This molecule may offer a new approach for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, they report.

The early study in mice identified the mechanism by which the dermal papilla cells promote new hair growth. Although it has been recognized that dermal papilla cells play a pivotal role in controlling hair growth, the genetic basis of the activating molecules involved has not been well understood, the researchers reported. The study was published in Developmental Cell.

“At different times during the hair follicle life cycle, the very same dermal papilla cells can send signals that either keep follicles dormant or trigger new hair growth,” said Maksim Plikus, PhD, in a press release from the university. He is a professor of developmental and cell biology at UCI and the study’s corresponding author. “We revealed that the SCUBE3 signalling molecule, 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 showed that overactivation of Hedgehog signalling in the niche dramatically accelerates hair growth and induces follicle multiplication. In normal skin, SCUBE3 is expressed only in dermal papillae of growing, not resting, follicles. Microinjection of the SCUBE3 protein into human scalp follicles that had been transplanted onto the mice induced new hair growth.

“There is a strong need for new, effective hair loss medicines, and naturally occurring compounds that are normally used by the dermal papilla cells present ideal next-generation candidates for treatment,” Dr. Plikus said. “Our test in the human hair transplant model validates the preclinical potential of SCUBE3.”

Other researchers involved in the study were from UCI, San Diego, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

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