Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made a groundbreaking discovery that they say opens the door for a potential cure for male pattern baldness (also called androgenetic alopecia, or AGA).
It was apparently always assumed that stem cells (which are the basic cells required to grow hair) are not present within a bald scalp. Luckily, the folks at the U of P decided to check for themselves. They found that skin from bald scalps actually contain the same number of stem cells as skin from the non-bald scalps.
The researchers said this means that there is potential for bald people to regrow hair. This is because the follicle stem cells that stop producing thick hair are present, but they are genetically defective. The researchers said that hair is still produced by all follicle stem cells, but that it is microscopic and may not be visible to the human eye.
Hair follicle stem cells in men who do not have baldness produce progenitor cells, which are the next step in the evolution of follicle stem cells. Progenitor cells directly enable hair to grow. In men with baldness, the size of their follicles decreases. This is not as important, however, as the fact that stem cells are still present. With stem cells, hair growth is at least feasible. The hard part is figuring out how to coax the follicle stem cells to either continue producing progenitor cells, or to produce progenitor cells after they’ve stopped being produced by the follicle stem cells.
For men who are already bald, they need not hold their breath. The new baldness research, released this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is the first of its kind. So more similar research will most likely be done before additional steps are taken with follicle stem cells and follicle progenitor cells. The research that has been completed with mapping entire genomes may come into play down the road. It may one day be possible to identify and treat many medical conditions and diseases before they happen.
In the meantime, men have two options to prevent hair loss and regrow hair – Rogaine and Propecia. These are the only FDA-approved medications for hair loss. Propecia is successful in helping to prevent hair loss in about 90 percent of men, and two out of three men also experienced some level of regrowth with their hair.
The key for beginning treatment with Propecia is to start as soon as possible once hair loss is encountered. Propecia will not restore a full head of hair, but it is effective in preventing hair loss and regrowing a certain amount of hair.
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