By Marrecca Fiore Feb 17th 2011 9:29AM
Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles and the Veterans Administration say they "stumbled" upon a possible cure for baldness while researching how stress affects the stomach and gut.
The researchers said this week they've found a chemical compound that spurs hair growth by blocking a stress-related hormone associated with hair loss -- at least in mice.
"Our findings show that a short-duration treatment with this compound causes an astounding long-term hair regrowth in chronically stressed mutant mice," Million Mulugeta, an adjunct professor of medicine in the division of digestive diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a corresponding author of the research, said in a statement. "This could open new venues to treat hair loss in humans ... particularly hair loss related to chronic stress and aging."
The study is published in this week's issue of the online journal PLoS One.
For the study, UCLA and VA researchers injected the compound, called astressin-B, into the bald mice to observe how it affected gastrointestinal tract function. The initial injection had no effect, so the mice were given one injection each day for five days.
After measuring the the effects of the injection on the stressed out mice, the animals were placed back into the cages with mice that had hair.
About three months later, researchers checked in on the mice and found the bald mice had regrown the hair they lost from stress and could not be distinguished from their unstressed, hairy counterparts.
"It was totally unexpected," Mulugeta said of the discovery.
The study also found that the effects of the five-day shot regimen lasted for four months, which researchers say is a long time considering that mice only live for two years.
Although the researchers aren't' sure if the results will translate to humans, they said minoxidil, sold as Rogaine, had the same effect on the mice as it does in humans leading them to believe the newly discovered compound may have a similar effect on humans as it does in mice. Further research is planned.