Hair loss: scientists discover a genetic trigger that could cure baldness

A team from the University of California Irvine (UCI) in the United States and partners from other countries have discovered a molecule – called SCUBE3 – that causes strong hair growth in both men and women. They claim it could permanently end baldness and hair loss, including alopecia. The studypublished in Developmental Cell, determined exactly how dermal papilla cells, found at the bottom of every hair follicle, promote new growth.

While it was already well known that dermal papilla cells play a central role in controlling hair growth, the activating molecules involved were previously “poorly understood”.

Study author and UCI Professor Maksim Plikus explained, “At different times in the hair follicle life cycle, the same dermal papilla cells can send signals that keep the follicles dormant or trigger the growth of new hair.

“We revealed that the signaling molecule SCUBE3, which dermal papilla cells naturally produce, is the messenger used to ‘tell’ nearby ciliated stem cells to start dividing, signaling the start of new cell growth. hair.”

The production of activator molecules by dermal papilla cells is “critical” for efficient hair growth in mice and humans.

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In people with androgenetic alopecia – also known as male pattern baldness – dysfunction of dermal papilla cells dramatically reduces normally abundant activating molecules.

To research this, the team studied a mouse with overactivated dermal papilla cells and excessive body hair.

UCI researcher Yingzi Liu said: “Studying this mouse model allowed us to identify SCUBE3 as the previously unknown signaling molecule that can lead to excessive hair growth.”

Further tests then validated that SCUBE3 activates hair growth in human follicles.


The researchers microinjected SCUBE3 into the skin of mice into which human scalp follicles had been transplanted, inducing new growth in both the dormant human follicles and the surrounding mouse follicles.

Team member Christian Guerrero-Juarez added, “These experiments provide proof-of-principle data that SCUBE3 or derivative molecules may be a promising therapeutic for hair loss.”

Currently there are two drugs on the market – finasteride and minoxidil – which are available in the UK and US for androgenetic alopecia.

Finasteride is only approved for use in men.

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Both drugs are “not universally effective” and must be taken daily to maintain their clinical effect.

“There is a strong need for new effective drugs against hair loss, and natural compounds that are normally utilized by dermal papilla cells present ideal next-generation candidates for treatment,” Plikus added.

“Our test in the human hair transplant model validates the preclinical potential of SCUBE3.”

UCI has filed a provisional patent application on the use of SCUBE3 and its related molecular compounds for the stimulation of hair growth.

Further research on SCUBE3 is expected to be conducted in the Plikus lab and at Amplifica Holdings Group Inc., a biotechnology company co-founded by Plikus.

Androgenetic alopecia is a permanent type of hair loss.

Other hair loss can be temporary and caused by:

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