Researchers at Ajou University published a study in Biomaterials, whereby they developed a CRISPR-based therapy that can restore hair growth in animals with androgenic alopecia.
Androgenic alopecia is known as pattern hair loss, the condition is characterised with significant hair loss. The dermal papilla cells become damaged mainly by a compound called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is made from testosterone using the enzyme called SRD5A2. Androgenic alopecia is usually treated with drugs such as finasteride, dutasteride, and minoxidil, or in some cases, individuals opt for a hair transplant. The drugs finasteride and dutasteride work by blocking SRD5A2 enzymatic activity.
Err so how does this new therapy actually work?!
Well, the researchers from Ajou University created a method to deliver the CRISPR-Cas9 system to a specific site. The method uses nanoparticles to carry the CRISPR-Cas9 components required for the gene-editing. Then with the use of an ultrasound, the CRISPR components become activated and are delivered to a specific location. The therapy actually works by modifying the SRD5A2 gene, so that less SRD5A2 is produced in the body. This causes less testosterone to be converted into DHT, and therefore, the dermal papilla cells do not become damaged and this promotes hair growth.
Researchers have suggested that this new method using CRISPR-Cas9 decreased the levels of SRD5A2 by at least 50% in vitro. Furthermore, in vivo studies showed that there was a 70% decrease in SRD5A2 mRNA levels compared to the control. There was some hair regrowth in the CRISPR treated mice by the 3rd week but by the 7th week, there was hair regrowth which was comparable to the untreated mice with normal hair growth patterns. The therapy was most efficient when using the ultrasound activated CRISPR therapy and the microbubble nanoliposomes, as this ensured that the components could be specifically delivered to the follicular papilla. In addition, researchers suggest that there was a high gene-editing efficiency observed in vivo as well as in vitro with this therapy.