Zinc as an ambivalent but potent modulator of murine hair growth in vivo - Preliminary observations

Przemyslaw M. Plonka, Bori Handjiski, Malgorzata Popik, Dominika Michalczyk, Ralf Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Oral zinc (Zn2+) is often employed for treating hair loss, even in the absence of zinc deficiency, although its mechanisms of action and efficacy are still obscure. In the current study, we explored the in vivo effects of oral zinc using the C57BL/6 mouse model for hair research. Specifically, we investigated whether continuous administration of high-dose ZnSO4 × 7H2O (20 mg/ml) in drinking water affects hair follicle (HF) cycling, whether it retards or inhibits chemotherapy-induced alopecia (CIA) and whether it modulates the subsequent hair re-growth pattern. Here, we show that high doses of oral zinc significantly inhibit hair growth by retardation of anagen development. However, oral zinc also significantly retards and prolongs spontaneous, apoptosis-driven HF regression (catagen). Oral zinc can also retard, but not prevent, the onset of CIA in mice. Interestingly, Zn2+ treatment of cyclophosphamide-damaged HFs also significantly accelerates the re-growth of normally pigmented hair shafts, which reflects a promotion of HF recovery. However, if given for a more extended time period, zinc actually retards hair re-growth. Thus, high-dose oral zinc is a powerful, yet ambivalent hair growth modulator in mice, whose ultimate effects on the HF greatly depend on the timing and duration of zinc administration. The current study also encourages one to explore whether oral zinc can mitigate chemotherapy-induced hair loss in humans and/or can stimulate hair re-growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)844-853
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental dermatology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Tailoring treatment
  • Water deprivation
  • Zinc sulphate
  • Zinc toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology


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