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Modulation of gut microbiota impacts diet-induced and drug-induced alopecia in mice
  1. Siu Lam1,2,
  2. Jingwan Zhang1,3,
  3. Keli Yang1,
  4. Lok Cheung Chu1,
  5. Wenyi Zhu1,3,
  6. Whitney Tang1,3,
  7. Francis K L Chan1,3,
  8. Paul K S Chan2,4,
  9. William K K Wu5,
  10. Siew C Ng1,3
  1. 1Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Institute of Digestive Disease, State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease, Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Center for Gut Microbiota Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  2. 2Department of Microbiology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  3. 3Microbiota I-Center (MagIC), Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  4. 4Center for Gut Microbiota Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  5. 5Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to Professor Siew C Ng, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong; siewchienng{at}

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We read with interest the work by Camilleri and Vella1 reporting the potential role of ‘leaky gut’ or reduced barrier function in some pathophysiological states. The detrimental effects of dietary emulsifiers on host intestinal barrier have also been evaluated.1–3 However, their role on promoting skin-related diseases and whether modulation of the microbiota can reversibly impact their underlying chemical effects are unknown. Herein, we showed that a common emulsifier, polysorbate-80 (P80), together with a soybean-deprived diet, promoted alopecia in mice. Importantly, the pathogenic process was exacerbated by antibiotics through aggravating gut dysbiosis and reversed following faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) or administration of a targeted probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum HK003) isolated from faeces of healthy subjects (figures 1A–C and 2A,B).

Figure 1

Abx aggravates while FMT reverses alopecia in P80-administrated mice by altering gut microbiota composition. (A) Schematic diagram of different treatment interventions in mice (n=10, except n=8 for water-treated group). (B) Alopecia scores in water, P80, Abx and FMT groups were shown as mean±SEM (n=10, except n=8 for the water-treated group). *p<0.05, ***p<0.001, ****p<0.0001, one-way analysis of variance corrected for multiple comparisons followed by a Tukey test. (C) Gross appearance of an alopecic mouse before and after FMT. (D) PCoA of faecal microbiome in each treatment group of mice. (E) Phylum-level microbial compositions in each treatment group of mice (n=4). (F) Microbial compositions in pre-FMT and post-FMT mice (n=4). (G) The relative abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila in faeces of the mice administrated with different treatments. In box plots, middle lines in the …

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  • Contributors SL conceived the study, performed the experiments and data analysis, and drafted the manuscript. JZ performed the experiments, supervised the study and revised the manuscript. TZ and KY performed the experiments and provided intellectual contribution and critical comments on the manuscript. LCC performed the experiments. WYZ performed probiotics isolation and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) analysis. FKLC, PKSC and WKKW provided intellectual contribution and critical comments on the manuscript. SCN supervised the study and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests FKLC and SCN are co-founders and in the board of GenieBiome Ltd. JZ, FKLC, and SCN are inventors of a patent application (US provisional patent application no. 63/281,887) in connection with this work. WT is employee of GenieBiome Ltd. All other authors declare that there are no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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