A Cure for Baldness?

Discovery News

This accidental discovery could one day give Rogaine a run for its money.

By Irene Klotz
Wed Feb 16, 2011 05:05 PM ET

  • A newly developed anti-stress hormone may be a secret weapon in the fight against hair loss.
  • The treatment not only helped bald mice regrow hair, but prevented young mice from losing it in the first place.
  • The therapy was accidentally discovered during a study of a new treatment for gastrointestinal disease.

A study investigating a new treatment for gastrointestinal disease had an unexpected side effect: It reversed baldness.

Scientists were testing a new chemical compound on mice genetically altered to overproduce a stress hormone known as corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), which, among other effects, causes mice to lose their hair as they age.

After five days of daily injections of a newly developed anti-stress hormone, the balding mice were returned to their habitats. Three months later researchers went to gather up the mice for follow-up studies, but their hair-less subjects were gone.

“It was completely unexpected,” Jean Rivier, with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., told Discovery News. “They couldn’t identify the mice except for their ear tags. That’s when they realized that they’d grown hair.”

Follow-up studies on younger mice that hadn’t yet lost their fur showed the anti-stress hormone actually prevented hair loss.

Rivier and colleagues have filed for a patent on the compound, known as astressin-B, and set up a company to begin raising money for development and testing.

It’s too soon to say if astressin-B would have similar effects on humans, but researcher Million Mulugeta, with the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, is hopeful, particularly since the hormone restarted the hair growth cycle in mice.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.