Television is known for its attempts to shock and sensationalise issues in order to grab viewers’ attention and increase their ratings for advertising revenue. However, sometimes behind the screaming programme titles lies an interesting story. One such case was an episode of Exceptional People entitled ‘Real Wolf Kids: My Shocking Story’. The Channel 5 documentary was about two children born with Ambras Syndrome, a condition where by thick 5cm long hair covers their heads, faces and other parts of their bodies. The condition is also known as congenital hypertrichosis, or ‘werewolf syndrome’. It is so rare that there have only been 50 documented cases since 1638. In many respects it is the opposite of balding.
Attempts by researchers in America to find the genetic code that leads to the rare Ambras Syndrome have thus far been unsuccessful. However, there has been a lot of headway made in the search for genes which cause the opposite condition. Hair loss or thinning hair affects 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women worldwide which is why huge efforts have been made to develop scientifically formulated and clinically proven treatments for hair loss.
For now, the only way for these children to treat their rare, extreme hair growth condition is to use a combination of shaving and laser hair removal treatment. It was inspiring to watch as 11-year-old Prithviraj Patil, from India, talked about his dreams for the future, how he wanted to be a business man to gain respect in the world. The brave boy never complained about his condition but rather was happy to undergo laser treatment to have the hair semi-permanently removed (laser treatment can only treat dark hair, so the lighter hair re-grows). And while it was upsetting to watch him in pain as he underwent the first treatment without any anesthetic, it was good to see Prithviraj happy and confident playing football with his friends afterwards.
Likewise Supatra ‘Nat’ Sasuphan, from Thailand, has excessive hair growth. Again, it was fascinating to watch as the brave girl went to school and played with her friends and got on with enjoying her life. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror as her father carefully shaved her face in preparation for her performance in a school play.
Both families of the children are anticipating what the future holds for Prithviraj and Nat and are desperate for science to come up with the answers. In the programme, Professor Angela Christiano said she hopes her continued research in genetic science will find a definitive cure that will help not only those with hypertrichosis, but also those with baldness.
For more information about the more common condition of hair loss and to find out what can be done, contact the Belgravia Centre on 020 7730 6666 or message the centre. If you are unable to make it to the London centre, fill in the online diagnostic form and one of our experts will contact you shortly to discuss treatment options.