Indian American scientist finds way to reverse skin wrinkling, hair loss

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Keshav Singh (Courtesy: University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Keshav Singh, an Indian American doctor and a professor of genetics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Medicine, has come up with a way to reverse wrinkled skin and hair loss.

Singh and colleagues have developed a mouse model in which a mutation leading to mitochondrial dysfunction is induced in the mouse and it develops wrinkled skin and visible hair loss within weeks.

According to a university press release, when the mitochondrial function is restored by turning off the gene responsible for mitochondrial dysfunction, the mouse returns to smooth skin and thick fur, indistinguishable from a healthy mouse of the same age.

The mutation that does this is in a nuclear gene affecting mitochondrial function, the tiny organelles known as the powerhouses of the cells.

Numerous mitochondria in cells produce 90 percent of the chemical energy cells need to survive.

In humans, a decline in mitochondrial function is seen during aging, and mitochondrial dysfunction can drive age-related diseases. A depletion of the DNA in mitochondria is also implicated in human mitochondrial diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, age-associated neurological disorders and cancer.

“This mouse model should provide an unprecedented opportunity for the development of preventive and therapeutic drug development strategies to augment the mitochondrial functions for the treatment of aging-associated skin and hair pathology and other human diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction plays a significant role,” Singh said.

The mutation in the mouse model is induced when the antibiotic doxycycline is added to the food or drinking water, which causes depletion of mitochondrial DNA since the enzyme to replicate the DNA becomes inactive.

After the induction of the mutation, the mice showed signs of hair loss within four weeks and wrinkled skin within eight weeks.

The hair loss and wrinkled skin could be reversed by turning off the mutation, though.

Thus reversal of the mutation restored mitochondrial function as well as the skin and hair pathology.

“It suggests that epigenetic mechanisms underlying mitochondria-to-nucleus cross-talk must play an important role in the restoration of normal skin and hair phenotype. Further experiments are required to determine whether phenotypic changes in other organs can also be reversed to wildtype level by restoration of mitrochondrial DNA,” Singh added.

Singh has has published his finding of “Reversing wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice by restoring mitochondrial function,” in the online journal Cell Death and Disease with his co-authors Bhupendra Singh, Trenton R. Schoeb and Prachi Bajpai, of the UAB Department of Genetics as well as Andrzej Slominski, of the UAB Department of Dermatology.

Singh holds the Joy and Bill Harbert Endowed Chair in Cancer Genetics at UAB.

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