Curing baldness is in the news and I thought I would share this interesting piece of information with those who like me were thinking there was no hope for curing baldness.
Last week, ABC News reported that “Japanese scientists have successfully regenerated hair on a bald mouse, bringing hope to more than 50 million Americans suffering from hair loss.” by curing baldness. The story went on to say “In a breakthrough study, researchers at the Tokyo University of Science extracted stem cells from hair follicles in normal mice, and implanted them into the skin of the bald animal. Most grew hair back within two to five weeks, and underwent normal growth cycles, meaning the strands grew back even after they were pulled out. They established connections to muscles and nerves underneath the skin, just like natural hair.”
Drawing a correlation between the Japanese mouse study and human hair loss, the ABC News article concluded with the cautious words “None of the studies have led to cures for hair loss in humans.” At least no yet. Still, despite the careful disclaimer, most interested readers will likely infer that the Japanese study has broken new ground in the effort to curing baldness.
The facts though speak to a somewhat different conclusion. To begin, it must be noted that several years ago workers at Columbia University and elsewhere managed to grow hair on the hairless mouse model. So despite the recent Japanese announcement, there is not really anything new here. In fact, it was Dr. Angela Christiano working with colleagues at Columbia University in the 1990’s who first drew the genetic link between this mouse and a rare inherited form of human hair loss, known as ‘congenital atrichia’. Both the ‘hairless mouse’ and its human counterpart suffer from a zinc finger transcription gene defect which, among other consequences, triggers apoptosis (complete destruction) of the proliferative hair growing elements in affected organisms. Moreover, the hairless mouse model is a very poor analog for the most common form of hair loss affecting humans.
Though both congenital atrichia and AGA affect humans, it is equally important to understand that congenital atrichia shares absolutely no genetic homology with common pattern hair loss. There are perhaps twenty or thirty known cases of congenital atrichia worldwide. Common pattern hair loss, also known as androgenetic alopecia (AGA) affects more than tens of millions people worldwide.
Unfortunately, the hairless mouse offers no biochemical or genetic assistance in curing pattern hair loss. Actually, there is no animal model for AGA. This fact alone has significantly slowed the progress toward developing a true cure. Moreover, unlike congenital atrichia, AGA is not a monogenic (single gene) disorder, but a complex trait disease. This means that there are numerous factors, both genetic and eipgenetic which influence the onset and progression of AGA. For instance it is thought that as many as twenty genes may govern hair growth, hair cycling and hair loss. While some genes probably play a much greater role than others, the details are still being worked out. In our lab, we have uncovered several noteworthy genetic clues which point toward the role micro-inflammation plays in AGA.
Undoubtedly, with time, additional important contributing factors will be elucidated, each representing a touchstone that will need to be addressed as we move away from treatment and toward a genuine cure. This effort will constitute a mosaic of contribution from investigators working in dedicated facilities worldwide. However, despite recent press attention given to the laudable Japanese effort, the possibility that tomorrow news headlines will announce “Hair Loss Cure Discovered” remains vanishingly remote.
Once the hair follicle dies there is no bring back dead cells. The trick is the get them before they die by stopping hair follicle miniaturization. This can be done with natural hair loss products. The trick to curing baldness is to prevent it.