Male pattern baldness causes discovered

Researchers have founds clues why males suffer from a typical baldness. This they claim could pave the way for a treatment to stop or even reverse thinning hair.

Most men start to go bald in middle age, with about 80% of men having some hair loss by the age of 70. Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss for men, the National Institute of Health said. Symptoms include a thinning of hair at the hairline, eventually creating a U-shaped or horseshoe pattern of hair on both sides of the head. The male sex hormone testosterone plays a key role, as do genetic factors. They cause the hair follicles to shrink, eventually becoming so small that they are invisible, leading to the appearance of baldness. While treatment is not necessary, side effects including psychological stress and loss of self-esteem due to change in appearance can be experienced.

Right now, the only treatments for male pattern baldness are minoxidil, commonly known as Rogaine, and Propecia, a prescription pill originally developed to treat enlarged prostate glands, WebMD reported. Other ways to hide baldness, include hair pieces or hair transplants.

In studies of bald men and laboratory mice, US scientists pinpointed a protein that triggers hair loss. Drugs that target the pathway are already in development, they report in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have analyzed which genes are switched on when men start to go bald. They found levels of a key protein called prostaglandin D synthase are elevated in the cells of hair follicles located in bald patches on the scalp, but not in hairy areas. Mice bred to have high levels of the protein went completely bald, while transplanted human hairs stopped growing when given the protein.

Prof George Cotsarelis, of the department of dermatology, who led the research, said, “Essentially we showed that prostaglandin protein was elevated in the bald scalp of men and that it inhibited hair growth. So we identified a target for treating male-pattern baldness. The next step would be to screen for compounds that affect this receptor and to also find out whether blocking that receptor would reverse balding or just prevent balding - a question that would take a while to figure out.”

The inhibition of hair growth is triggered when the protein binds to a receptor on the cells of hair follicles, explained Prof Cotsarelis. Several known drugs that target this pathway have already been identified, he added, including some that are in clinical trials.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and other medical groups.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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