Whilst there are many hair loss
solutions both available now and in development, the first step before any restorative action is taken is to identify the cause of any shedding.
Some people will turn to a doctor or hair expert specialising in hair loss conditions
, and many more will turn to the internet to self-diagnose. But how do those going it alone without professional help know that their conclusion is accurate?
The team behind the groundbreaking genetic editing technique CRISPR
is hoping to help people to better identify a range of issues through home-testing - and identifying problems which may cause hairloss may well be included.
Genetic search engine
Via their company Mammoth BioSciences, the people who discovered CRISPR - a way of editing gene sequences to eradicate certain illnesses and hereditary conditions - hope to put this novel technology into everyday use, in hospitals and at home.
Whilst some DNA testing kits, such as those from market-leaders 23andMe
, already offer testing for an hereditary propensity towards genetic hair loss - better known as Male Pattern Baldness
and Female Pattern Hair Loss
- Mammoth is starting by targeting serious health concerns. Some of the illnesses it is hoping to target for early detection, using a credit card- sized kit made from paper and linked to a mobile phone app, include HPV, Dengue virus, Zika virus, malaria and tuberculosis.
Explaining CRISPR's potential application for genetics testing, Mammoth's CEO, Trevor Martin, told The Verge in April 2018, "When I think of CRISPR, I really think of biology’s search engine
"We’ve come so far in terms of technology, but still there are all these barriers in between us and having real access to understanding our health and our bodies and the environment around us more generally... This is the type of technology that really breaks down those barriers and democratizes access to this type of molecular information about the world around us."
As an example, whilst the genetic editing side of CRISPR may one day provide a cure for cancer, its gene detection capabilities may also help to identify the disease as well as those who may be more susceptible to developing it, in the first place.
Hair loss can not only be caused by Male and Female Pattern Baldness, but also as a side effect of the strain placed on the body where there is an underlying illness
. Excessive hair shedding - particularly when it occurs diffusely, all over the scalp - can be a sign of this, and is something home-diagnoses using search engine information can often miss.
Hair loss from illness
Many illnesses can cause temporary hair loss - which tends to present as thinning hair around three months after being triggered - due to the body diverting its resources into protecting its critical functions. This can cause the hair growth cycle
to prematurely push hairs which were actively growing, into the resting phase where they shed a few months later. This condition is known as Telogen Effluvium
when it lasts for up to six months and Chronic Telogen Effluvium
when it is more persistent.
These temporary hair loss conditions tend to be more common in women, but can also affect men especially when triggered by illness, stress, or as a side effect of prescription medication
taken to treat health issues. Illnesses known to cause hair loss include thyroid disorders, lupus, Crohn's disease, diabetes, iron deficiency anaemia, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and acute stress disorder (ASD - a precursor to PTSD). Others where drugs used to treat the illness can cause shedding or baldness include cancer, depression, high blood pressure, acne and high cholesterol.
The hair fall can affect up to 50 per cent of scalp hair and normal healthy hair growth should resume naturally in time, though Telogen Effluvium treatment
is an option for over 16s.
Where there is also a genetic predisposition towards Male or Female Pattern Hair Loss, this may accelerate the onset of these hairloss conditions or exacerbate the rate of shedding in active cases. In these instances, a personalised hair loss treatment
course designed to address both conditions simultaneously can be tailored by Belgravia
Whilst Mammoth may not yet be venturing into the everyday world of genetic hair loss -for now, at least - this area is already well-served and the work the tech company currently has underway should prove helpful to many people looking to understand their range of symptoms.