For most of us, the thought of going bald is an unpleasant one but a reality we must consider. However when a child is experiencing hair loss and imminent baldness is on the cards, the unfair reality can run much deeper than mere looks and have a deep-seeded psychological impact for that child. In ground-breaking research a gene has been identified that is responsible for the rare Hypotrichosis simplex condition.
The international research team headed by scientists at the University of Bonn is the first to identify a receptor that plays a role in hair growth. They now hope their research findings will lead to new therapies that will work with various forms of hair loss.
“Although Hypotrichosis simplex is very uncommon, it may prove critical in our search for understanding of the mechanisms of hair growth,” project leader Dr. Regina Betz from Bonn’s Institute of Human Genetics said.
Hypotrichosis simplex is a rare form of hereditary hair loss that affects only 1 in 200,000 people. Occurring in men and women, the extent of scalp and body hair loss is variable. In the case of hypotrichosis simplex of the scalp, sufferers experience a progressive, gradual loss of scalp hair beginning in the first 10 years of life, leading to almost complete loss of scalp hair by their 30’s. A few sparse, fine, short hairs can remain in some individuals and the body hair, beard, eyebrows, underarm hair, teeth, and nails develop normally. Hypotrichosis in its generalised form will cause loss of body hair in addition to scalp hair loss. The hair loss is diffuse and usually begins in early childhood and progresses until adulthood. Symptoms include sparse, thin or short hair and reduced hair growth, but the hair shaft generally appears normal. Hypotrichosis from birth has also been reported.
Hypotrichosis clearly compromises the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle. At fault is a genetic defect that prevents certain receptors on the surface of hair follicle cells from being correctly formed. For the hair follicle to function normally, messengers must bind to these receptors, triggering a chain reaction in the cell interior. The fact that a receptor plays a specific role in hair growth was previously unknown to scientists.
“We can now search selectively for related substances that may be used in therapies for very different types of hair loss,” Ivar von Kügelgen of from Bonn’s Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology said.
Presently there is no cure for Hypotrichosis simplex. But, according to senior trichologist of the Belgravia Centre Leonora Doclis, you can treat the condition by helping the existing hair.
“At this stage you cannot add follicles but you can work with what you’ve got and strengthen and coarsen the existing hair,” she said.