AI is helping design a baldness treatment that works better than testosterone or minoxidil

AI is helping design a baldness treatment that works better than testosterone or minoxidil

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Hair grew back thicker in mice treated with a manganese-nanozyme microneedle patch (right image, labeled MnMNP) compared to those treated with testosterone as a control (left image). Credit: Adapted from Nano Letters 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c03119

Hair loss is undesirable for many men – and women – because a person’s hairstyle is often closely tied to their sense of self-confidence. And while some embrace it, others wish they could regrow their lost locks. Now, scientists have used artificial intelligence (AI) to predict compounds that could neutralize reactive oxygen species causing baldness in the scalp. They selected the best candidate and constructed a proof-of-concept microneedle patch to show that it can effectively regenerate mouse hair. The study was recently published in ACS’ Nano-letters.

Most people with severe hair loss suffer from androgenic alopecia. This is also known as 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 free oxygen radicals. When levels of oxygen free radicals are too high, they can overwhelm the body’s antioxidant enzymes that usually control them.

One of these enzymes is superoxide dismutase (SOD), and researchers have recently created SOD mimics called “nanozymes.” But so far, the ones that have been reported are not very effective in removing oxygen free radicals. So Lina Wang, Zhiling Zhu and their colleagues wanted to see if machine learning, a form of AI, could help them design a better nanozyme to treat hair loss.

For potential nanozyme candidates, the researchers chose transition metal thiophosphate compounds. They tested machine learning models with 91 different combinations of transition metals, phosphates and sulfates, and the techniques predicted that MnPS3 would have the strongest SOD type ability. Next, MnPS3 nanosheets were synthesized by chemical vapor transport of manganese, red phosphorus and sulfur powders. In early tests with human skin fibroblast cells, the nanosheets significantly reduced levels of reactive oxygen species without causing harm.

Based on these results, the team prepared MnPS3 microneedle patches and treated with them mouse models affected by androgenic alopecia. Over 13 days, the animals regenerated thicker strands of hair that more densely covered their previously bald bottoms than mice treated with testosterone or minoxidil. The researchers say their study both produced a nanozyme treatment to regenerate hair and indicated the potential for computational methods to be used in the design of future nanozyme therapies.

Reference: “Machine Learning Guided Discovery of Superoxide Dismutase Nanozymes for Androgenetic Alopecia” by Chaohui Zhang, Yixin Yu, Shugao Shi, Manman Liang, Dongqin Yang, Ning Sui, William W. Yu, Lina Wang and Zhiling Zhu, October 20, 2022, Nano-letters.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c03119

The study authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province in China.

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