Researchers studying how stress affects gastrointestinal functions in mice might have stumbled on a chemical that can kick-start hair growth, according to a study published in PLoS ONE and reported by ScienceDaily.

For these experiments, scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles, the Veterans Administration and the Salk Institute used mice genetically altered to overproduce a stress hormone called corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). This hormone over-production caused the critters to lose hair as they aged and eventually become bald on their backs.

To block this stress hormone, researchers injected the mice with astressin-B, a chemical compound. After three months, scientists found they could no longer distinguish the balding mice from other mice because they had completely regrown the hair on their once-bald backs.

What’s more, scientists found that just one shot of the compound each day for five consecutive days maintained the mice hair regrowth for four months. (That’s a long time in the two-year life span of mice.)

“This could open new venues to treat hair loss in humans through the modulation of the stress hormone receptors, particularly hair loss related to chronic stress and aging,” said 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.

UCLA and the Salk Institute have applied for patents for their new compound.

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