Vitamin C-Phosphate offers your hair protection from androgens

It’s all very well, all those male hormones, but they are also responsible for hair loss. And androgens that your body produces itself are just as much to blame as the synthetic androgens that chemical athletes use. Korean researchers say that a vitamin C analogue may help prevent androgenic hair loss.

The baldness gene
The researchers, who work at the Kyungpook National University, did experiments with papilla cells from the skin of balding people. Papilla cells provide the nutrients that other cells in the hair follicles use to make hairs. Papilla cells play a key role in male baldness. They possess receptors for androgens and hair production stops if too many or too strong androgens attach themselves to the receptors.

The Koreans believe they know how this happens. They think that androgens activate the dickkopf-1 gene. [J Invest Dermatol. 2008 Feb; 128(2): 262-9.] This is the gene that’s responsible for making the protein DKK-1. As a result, the papilla cells die and the hair-producing outer root sheath cells stop working. And then the hair falls out.


Vitamin C
So could you stop this process by exposing papilla cells to vitamin C-phosphate, or, to use its chemical name, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate? [Structural formula shown above] This is what the Koreans wanted to find out.

Vitamin C-Phosphate offers your hair protection from androgens
The idea didn’t just fall out of the sky. The Koreans had already demonstrated in test tubes that ascorbic acid 2-phosphate boosts hair growth. [J Dermatol Sci. 2006 Feb; 41(2): 150-2.] Papilla cells [DP] develop more quickly when given more ascorbic acid 2-phosphate. What’s more, the vitamin also causes the production of the growth factor IGF-1 to increase in the cells.


Vitamin C, DHT & the baldness gene
So who knows, maybe ascorbic acid 2-phosphate also inhibits the production of the baldness protein DKK-1, thought the Koreans. And lo and behold. The figure above shows that DHT – the androgenic testosterone metabolite – boosts the production of the protein DKK-1, but that ascorbic acid 2-phosphate prevents this from happening.

The researchers used ascorbic acid 2-phosphate because it’s such a stable compound, they write. But in the cells, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate converts into ascorbate or vitamin C. By the way, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate is a common ingredient in cosmetic products.

Of course the research doesn’t prove that men can protect their scalp with vitamin C analogues. It’s not even clear whether steroids users can prevent their hairline from receding by using ascorbic acid 2-phosphate or ordinary vitamin C.

L-ascorbic acid 2-phosphate represses the dihydrotestosterone-induced dickkopf-1 expression in human balding dermal papilla cells.


Recent studies suggested that dihydrotestosterone (DHT)-driven alteration in the autocrine and paracrine factors may be a key to androgen-potentiated balding. Also, we recently claimed that DHT-inducible dickkopf-1 (DKK-1) is one of the key factors involved in the androgen-potentiated balding. Here, we investigated whether L-ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (Asc 2-P), a derivative of L-ascorbic acid, could attenuate DHT-induced DKK-1 expression in dermal papilla cells (DPCs) from balding scalp. We observed that DHT-induced DKK-1 mRNA expression was attenuated in the presence of Asc 2-P as examined by RT-PCR analysis. In addition, we found that DHT-induced activation of luciferase reporter activity was significantly repressed when Asc 2-P was added together with DHT. Moreover, Asc 2-P repressed DHT-induced DKK-1 protein expression as examined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Although there will be many hurdles to apply our finding to actual remedies, these results suggest that it would be worthy to evaluate Asc 2-P or its derivatives for the treatment and prevention of androgen-driven balding.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

PMID: 20701628 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]