Progress is being made in research on hair, bolstered by the rising demand for hair growth products due to the arrival of the so-called super aging society. Hair growth and shedding follows a repetitive cycle, and it is believed that hair loss occurs when FGF5, a protein generated at the end of the growth cycle, binds to receptors in the papilla cells in root tissue to emit a specific signal. If the function of FGF5, which signals the switch between the growth and shedding stage, were to be controlled, then the hair would continue to grow on the scalp for a longer period of time.

A domestic rabbit (left) and an angora rabbit (right) in which FGF5 function has been suppressed.

Finally, the team is proceeding with the development of a hair growth agent with few side effects due to the fact that the RNA aptamers, peptide molecules that bind to specific receptors, do not bind with any protein other than FGF5. Meanwhile, FGF5 has been reported to promote oncogenesis in cancer cells, so the aptamer may also be applicable to therapeutic agents for cancers related to FGF5.

RNA aptamers inhibit hair loss by specifically blocking the binding of FGF5 to the FGF receptors in papilla cells that in turn trigger hair loss.