Clue to male baldness discovered
A biological clue to male baldness has been discovered, raising the
prospect of a treatment to stop or even reverse thinning hair.In studies
of bald men and laboratory mice, US scientists pinpointed a protein that
triggers hair loss.
Drugs that target the pathway are already in development, they report
in the journal Science Translational Medicine.The research could lead to
a cream to treat baldness.
Most men start to go bald in middle age, with about 80% of men having
some hair loss by the age of 70.
The male sex hormone testosterone plays a key role, as do genetic
factors. They cause the hair follicles to shrink, eventually becoming so
small that they are invisible, leading to the appearance of baldness.
Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have analysed which
genes are switched on when men start to go bald.
They found levels of a key protein called prostaglandin D synthase
are elevated in the cells of hair follicles located in bald patches on
the scalp, but not in hairy areas.Mice bred to have high levels of the
protein went completely bald, while transplanted human hairs stopped
growing when given the protein.
Prof George Cotsarelis, of the department of dermatology, who led the
research, said: "Essentially we showed that prostaglandin protein was
elevated in the bald scalp of men and that it inhibited hair growth. So
we identified a target for treating male-pattern baldness.
"The next step would be to screen for compounds that affect this
receptor and to also find out whether blocking that receptor would
reverse balding or just prevent balding - a question that would take a
while to figure out."
The inhibition of hair growth is triggered when the protein binds to
a receptor on the cells of hair follicles, said Prof Cotsarelis.
Several known drugs that target this pathway have already been
identified, he added, including some that are in clinical trials.
The researchers say there is potential for developing a treatment
that can be applied to the scalp to prevent baldness and possibly help