For many men, male pattern baldness is simply a fact of life, a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation which eventually leads to the loss of some or all head hair. However, new light has been shed on the possible cause of the bald patches which occur, with the potential of there one day being a ‘cure’ for genetic hair loss.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the US last week revealed that they had discovered what they believe to be the cause of male pattern baldness. Announcing their findings in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the team from the university’s Department of Dermatology said that the underlying reason for bald spots was not a lack of hair, but in fact that the hair that grows in such areas is so small as to be microscopic.
Fault in stem cell activation blamed
The study utilised human scalp samples obtained anonymously from hair loss treatments. After comparing bald patches with healthy full-haired areas of the scalp they found that there was no significant difference in the number of hair follicles, only in the size and health of them.
The problem, they say, lies with stem cells located in the scalp. In the case of a normal healthy head of hair, these stem cells turn into ‘progenitor cells’, which in turn produce hair.
The team found that while the number of stem cells remained the same in bald patches as areas with healthy hair, there were far fewer of the more mature progenitor cells in bald patches.
The research leader, Dr George Cotsarelis, said: “This implies that there is a problem in the activation of stem cells converting progenitor cells in bald scalp. The Fact that there are normal numbers of stem cells in bald scalp gives us hope for reactivating those stem cells.”
He went on to say, “This lowers the bar for developing a treatment. It definitely gives us hope we can reverse the condition.”
In theory, a cream or other locally applied treatment could be used to stimulate and reactivate the cells. Once this could be achieved, hair would be expected to re-grow naturally and normally.
However, while this news may be music to the ears of many suffering from genetic hair loss, or androgenic alopecia, it should be noted that only minimal research has so far been implemented. The study used scalp samples from only 54 individuals between the ages of 40 and 65. Of these individuals, all were white males, and so it is as yet impossible to tell if the same results are true of women or for individuals beyond the racial background of the test group.
Existing treatments for Androgenic Alopecia
While these claims might grab headlines, there are already well established effective treatments available for the treatment of male pattern baldness and genetic hair loss. At the Belgravia centre we use a treatment programme based around the primary ingredients Propecia and Minoxidil to prevent further hair loss and stimulate hair re-growth, in combination with a programme of close trichological monitoring.
Minoxidil and Propecia are both licensed by the UK’s Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for the treatment of genetic hair loss.
If you suffer from alopecia or any other hair loss condition, contact us for a free consultation or fill out our online diagnostic form to see how we can help. For a little inspiration, have a look through some of our recent success stories.