Breakthrough baldness cure? Scientists develop dissolvable patch that reverses hair loss

HANGZHOU, China — Bald may be beautiful, but few people actually enjoy losing their hair. Now, researchers in China have developed a patch which can combat the causes of male and female pattern baldness.

Male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia, is the most common form of hair loss. The condition becomes permanent because the body doesn’t have enough blood vessels surrounding the hair follicles to deliver the necessary nutrients, cytokines, and essential molecules. Moreover, researchers note that a build up of reactive oxygen species in the scalp can trigger the death of cells which help people grow hair.

Study authors Fangyuan Li, Jianqing Gao, and their colleagues discovered that nanoparticles containing the chemical element cerium mimics the enzymes that remove reactive oxygen species. These enzymes also reduce oxidative stress due to liver injuries, wounds, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Reaching the roots to reverse hair loss

Although these nanoparticles can treat one of the main factors of hair loss, they can’t cross the outermost layer of skin. To solve this problem, the team designed a minimally invasive microneedle patch to deliver these cerium nanoparticles right to the hair roots under the skin.

To start, researchers first coated cerium nanoparticles with a biodegradable polyethylene glycol-lipid compound. They then created the dissolvable microneedle patch by pouring a mix of hyaluronic acid and the nanoparticles into a mold.

In an experiment using male mice, the team tested both a placebo patch and the cerium patch. Each mouse had bald spots formed using hair removal cream. Although both patches stimulated the formation of new blood vessels around the hair follicles, the study finds that the cerium patch did this much faster.

The mice displayed earlier signs of skin pigmentation and higher levels of a compound which only appears during the onset of new hair development. The mice also had lower levels of oxidative stress compounds in their skin while receiving treatment using the cerium patches. Overall, scientists say the microneedle patches led to faster hair regrowth and similar coverage and density in comparison to a leading topical treatment for baldness.

The researchers add in a media release that topical hair treatments also need to be applied more frequently than their patch would need to be.

The study appears in the journal ACS Nano.