A synthetic sandalwood odorant stimulates hair growth in experiments using human scalp tissue performed in the laboratory. The findings are reported in Nature Communications this week.
Smell is triggered when odorant molecules are recognized by their receptors at the surface of specialised cells in the nose. However, other cells in the body also express olfactory receptors, which then regulate cell functions beyond smell.
Ralf Paus and colleagues found that the epithelium of hair follicles, particularly the outer root sheath, express the olfactory receptor OR2AT4. The authors demonstrated that applying a synthetic sandalwood odorant on human scalp explants stimulates hair growth by decreasing cell death of hair follicle keratinocytes and increasing production of the protein insulin-like growth factor 1 in the outer root sheath.
The authors suggest that olfactory receptors may serve as a target for the development of hair loss therapies.