A key protein that causes male pattern balding has been identified by researchers. This could lead to hair loss treatments that stop balding, and maybe even reverse it.
The journal Science Translational Medicine published research from the University of Pennsylvania that pinpointed which genes are activated when men begin to experience male pattern balding. This type of balding, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is extremely common, and is caused by a genetic predisposition and hormones – specifically, testosterone (T). It usually begins in the middle years, and 80% of men have hair loss by the age of 70. Androgenetic alopecia causes hair loss on the top and front of the scalp, leaving a “wreath” of hair around the back and sides of the head.
Early-onset male pattern balding may be triggered by consuming products that alter hormones, such as anabolic steroids, whey protein isolate, andro, Creatine, DHEA, and GH (growth hormones).
When male pattern balding begins, the hair follicles in the vulnerable areas get smaller. As part of the natural hair growth cycle, the hair falls out, and a new, smaller hair grows into the smaller follicle. Eventually, these follicles stop producing hair, or they produce a hair that is so tiny, it’s virtually impossible to see.
The levels of a protein called prostaglandin D synthase are higher in the cells of hair follicles that are susceptible to male pattern balding (top and front). The hairs on the back and sides, which are not susceptible, had lower levels of this protein.
The research included breading mice to have large quantities of prostaglandin D synthase, also called prostaglandin D2. These mice lost all their hair. Transplanted human hairs, when given the protein, stopped growing.
Treatments that target this protein are already being developed. This may result in a cream that can be applied to the areas of the scalp that are susceptible to male pattern balding. Until clinical trials are underway, it will not be clear whether medications would just halt further balding, or whether treatments would actually reverse male pattern balding and restore the hair. Current treatments for male pattern balding include pills and topical medications such as minoxidil and finasterid (which may have significant side-effects and are not always effective) and hair transplants (the only permanent treatment for male pattern balding).
Study: “Prostaglandin D2 Inhibits Hair Growth and Is Elevated in Bald Scalp of Men with Androgenetic Alopecia” by Garza L. A. et. al. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 126ra34 (2012).