Research published in the Scientific Reports journal explains how shikimic acid may promote hair growth.
Shikimic acid (SA) is a biochemical metabolite in plants and microorganisms, also known as shikimate. It is a crucial element in plant stem cells takes its name from the Japanese star anise, shikimi (pictured), from which the acid was first isolated. It can now be garnered from a number of different plants.
A 2019 Korean study found that shikimic acid “significantly prolonged” the anagen (active) phase of the hair growth cycle. Researchers, therefore, believe it is worth further exploration as a potential hair loss solution.
Although the specific hair loss condition this discovery could potentially help has not been identified, it is likely to be of interest to those developing treatments for various non-scarring types.
This includes androgenetic alopecia – Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss – temporary shedding from Telogen Effluvium or Diffuse Thinning, the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, or Traction Alopecia, for example.
Enhanced hair shaft elongation
Minoxidil is a topical, dose-dependent medication which is MHRA-licensed and FDA-approved for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia, but is frequently used as an ‘off label’ hair growth accelerator for other hairloss conditions – as an Alopecia Areata treatment, for example.
Various tests took place, including using in vivo mouse models and ex vivo human hair follicle organ culture.
The results of two separate strengths of shikimic acid formulations were compared to controls and candidates treated with regular strength 2 per cent minoxidil. The mice, all females aged 7 weeks, were each treated for three consecutive weeks with the allotted preparation.
Researchers and study authors, Mira Choi and Soon-Jin Choi, summarise the process and findings, as follows:
“We examined the expression of mannose receptor (MR), which is a known receptor of SA, in human HFs and the effect of SA on human dermal papilla cells (hDPCs), outer root sheath cells (hORSCs), and on ex vivo human hair organ culture.
SA significantly prolonged anagen hair growth in the in vivo mouse model. We confirmed expression of the MR in human HFs, and that SA increased the proliferation of hDPCs and hORSCs.
It was found that SA enhanced hair shaft elongation in an ex vivo human hair organ culture. SA treatment of hDPCs led to increased c-myc, hepatocyte growth factor, keratinocyte growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor levels and upregulation of p38 MAPK and cAMP response element-binding protein levels.”
For a better explanation of exactly what this means in relation to hair growth and hair loss, we asked Belgravia superintendent trichologist and senior hairloss specialist, Rali Bozhinova. She broke it down, as follows…
“Mannose receptors are found in several types of cells including some types of skin cells like dermal fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Fibroblasts and keratinocytes are located in the hair follicle – more specifically, in the dermal papilla and outer root sheath. Therefore, the study was looking into, and also confirmed, that there are indeed mannose receptors in the human hair follicle.
Shikimic acid can bind to the mannose receptor in these places.
This study says that shikimic acid can be applied topically and should be easily absorbed through the skin due to its low molecular weight. It is also considered safe.
The study found the application of shikimic acid increased the reproduction of cells in the dermal papilla and outer root sheath of the human hair follicle. When tested on mice, it prolonged the duration of the anagen (growing) phase of the hair cycle.
The application of shikimic acid was tested in the lab on human hair organ culture and was found to encourage the hair shaft elongation. When applied to the dermal papilla cells, it increased the production of important proteins and growth factors involved in cell signalling. This is very important because the interaction between the dermal papilla cells and the surrounding cells determines hair growth and regeneration.
Therefore, their findings are that the application of shikimic acid promotes hair growth and, overall, it is worth researching further as a potential treatment for various hair loss conditions.
Additionally, shikimic acid has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. The study also mentions that when the mannose receptors are activated, this can trigger a protective pathway against autoimmune disease. This may mean it could also have potential applications for the various types of Alopecia Areata.”
With so many possibilities, it is likely shikimic acid will be explored further in relation to helping regrow hair and preventing baldness. Any news on this will be published on the Belgravia Hair Loss Blog as it becomes available.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.