Microneedle patch to cure baldness developed with machine learning
Image credit: Dreamstime
Researchers have used machine learning to predict compounds that could neutralise baldness-causing reactive oxygen species in the scalp.
The team from the National Natural Science Foundation of China used the best candidate from their results to construct a proof-of-concept microneedle patch and effectively regenerated hair on mice.
Most people with substantial hair loss have the condition androgenic alopecia, also called male- or female-pattern baldness.
In this condition, hair follicles can be damaged by androgens, inflammation or an overabundance of reactive oxygen species, such as oxygen free radicals.
When the levels of oxygen free radicals are too high, they can overwhelm the body’s antioxidant enzymes that typically keep them in check.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is one of these enzymes, and researchers have recently created SOD mimics called 'nanozymes'. But so far, those that have been reported aren’t very good at removing oxygen free radicals.
The researchers used machine learning, a form of AI, to help them design a better nanozyme for treating hair loss. They tested machine-learning models with 91 different transition-metal, phosphate and sulphate combinations.
Nanosheets were synthesised from the most promising combination and in initial tests with human skin fibroblast cells, they significantly reduced the levels of reactive oxygen species without causing harm.
Based on these results, the team prepared microneedle patches using the nanosheets and treated androgenic alopecia-affected mouse models with them.
Within 13 days, the animals regenerated thicker hair strands that more densely covered their previously bald backsides than mice treated with testosterone or minoxidil. The researchers say that their study both produced a nanozyme treatment for regenerating hair, and indicated the potential for computer-based methods for use in the design of future nanozyme therapeutics.
While the battle against baldness is ongoing, significant efforts are being made by various research teams to tackle the condition.
In 2019, researchers at Columbia University successfully grew human hair in a dish which could one day broaden the availability of hair restoration surgery.
It was the first time that human hair follicles have been entirely generated in a dish, without the need for implantation into skin.
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