Experimental Drugs May Reverse Skin and Hair Conditions

Caleb Sooknanan ‘20

Figure 1. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have used mice to create a chemical compound that may be applied towards the reversal of hair whitening, hair loss, and skin inflammation.

Glycosphingolipids or GSLs are specific biomolecules that function within cell membranes to regulate signal transmission and cell-to-cell recognition, but more research is needed to understand their properties. For example, scientists are trying to understand the relationship between GSL consumption and phenotypes associated with an organism’s skin and hair. In a study performed at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, doctor Subroto Chatterjee and a team of researchers analyzed an experimental compound that, when fed to mice, reversed hair loss, hair whitening, and skin inflammation, effects normally linked with diets containing fats and cholesterol. The researchers suggested that the compound — classified as D-threo-1-phenyl-2-decanoylamino-3-morpholino-1-propanol (D-PDMP) — could reduce GSL production and the effects of fat-based diets.

To detect the effects of the compound on GSL activity, the researchers genetically modified a group of mice to have atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by arteries being clogged by fats. The researchers then fed a subgroup of the available mice with a diet high in fat and cholesterol, while a second mice subgroup was fed a control diet. The mice were fed the appropriate diets for 8 consecutive weeks. During this time, both mouse groups were given 1 milligram or 10 milligrams of D-PDMP in capsules or liquid forms. The researchers also analyzed the fat composition of mouse skin using mass spectrometry analysis.

By the end of 36 weeks of consumption, the mice with diets containing more fat and cholesterol experienced more hair loss, hair whitening, and skin lesion presence. These mice, after receiving 1 milligram and 10 milligrams of D-PDMP in a capsule for each kilogram of body weight, experienced physical improvements after 20 weeks of consumption. For each kilogram of body weight, treatment with 1 milligram of D-PDMP in a capsule was as effective as 10 milligrams as a liquid; thus, the researchers suggested that the capsule form of D-PDMP was a more effective drug delivery method. From the mass spectrometry results, the researchers suggested that D-PDMP could reduce skin inflammation by lowering white blood cell amounts within specified regions. The researchers thereby suggested that D-PDMP could be used to counteract bodily effects associated with fat-based diets, but more animal research is needed to confirm these findings. Such results may be used to treat hair loss and skin conditions among human patients.



  1. S. Chatterjee, et. al., Inhibition of glycosphingolipid synthesis reverses skin infammation and hair loss in ApoE−/− mice fed western diet. Scientific Reports 8, 1-11 (2018). doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28663-9.  
  2. Image retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Lab_mouse_mg_3263.jpg

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