The discovery of a new gene that is linked to hair loss will help target men and women who are likely to lose their hair and bring us closer to finding a cure, say researchers at the National Institute of Genetics in Tokyo.
Researchers discovered that a lack of the gene called Sox21 is directly linked to early hair loss after scientists noted that mice which lacked the gene started losing their hair 11 days after birth.
The same gene is also found in humans and according to Yumiko Saga, a mammalian development professor at the National Institute of Genetics, it is entirely possible that the gene is also a cause of thinning hair among men and women.
"Normally, new hair appears right after old hair falls out," said Professor Saga. "But the hair of these mice fell out very early, making their bald periods longer."
Genetic hair loss in humans causes the hair follicle to shrink, resulting in a shorter period of growth during the hair growth cycle.
The growth phase, which usually lasts between two and seven years, is followed by a short resting phase of two or three months, but as some men and women age and their follicles become smaller, the pattern gradually reverses until eventually the resting period is so long and the growth phase so short that there's no new hair coming through to replace the average 100 hairs we lose daily through natural shedding.
The researchers, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, believe that Sox21 governs this cycle.
The Sox21 gene has in the past been shown to be linked to the formation of nerve cells, but the new study is the first to indicate its function in ensuring hair retention.
The millions of pounds continually being spent on hair loss research only highlights society's longing for a baldness cure. The best hair loss treatments currently on the market are highly effective in preventing hair loss and do see re-growth in those who use a combination method to get the best out their treatments and reverse the effects.
An absolute cure would be the Holy Grail for hair loss sufferers but still today, some people are wary about using medication in general. If someone did find a genetic cure for baldness would there be many people willing to play with their genes?
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