Searching for the Cure for Baldness – Hair Loss Treatments
Baldness is an accepted part of getting older for some people, but it can be the source of distress for others. Hair loss affects millions of men and women all over the world, yet despite decades of research, we are still searching for the cure for baldness. There are many studies examining hair loss that are based on decades of research. Could we be getting closer to the cure for baldness?
Androgenic alopecia – most commonly known as male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness – is the most common type of hair loss, affecting almost 85% of the male population and 60% of the female population at some level across the entire globe.
For men, hair loss begins in the temporal region and recedes until an “M” shape is formed. Hair will also start to thin at the crown and progress to partial or complete baldness across the top of the scalp. For women, the hair will start to thin in the middle or “the part” of the scalp. Some women will also experience frontal hairline loss.
Male and female pattern baldness is hereditary and is linked to an androgen called DHT or dihydrotestosterone.
Androgenic alopecia affects such a large number of people across the world. So a permanent cure would not only lessen anxiety for a very significant percentage of the population, but it would also prove to be extremely financially advantageous to the pharmaceutical company that discovers the cure to hair loss.
A hair is made up of the hair follicle (a pocket located in the sub-dermal layer of the skin that anchors each hair) and the shaft (the visible fibre that we see above the scalp). In the hair bulb, at the base of the follicle, cells divide and grow to produce the hair shaft, which is made from a protein called keratin. The papilla that surrounds the bulb contains tiny blood vessels that nourish the hair follicles and deliver hormones to regulate the growth and structure of the hair.
Hair grows in cycles. A hair follicle produces hair for a few years before it goes into a resting phase. Hair follicles produce hair in cycles. A natural part of this hair growth cycle involves shedding around 50 to 100 hairs per day.
Each follicle will produce hair for 2 to 6 years and then take a break for several months. While the hair follicle is in its resting phase, the hair will fall out. There are roughly 100,000 follicles on the scalp, but because each follicle rests at different times while others produce hairs, hair loss typically goes unnoticed. Hair loss will become more obvious if there has been any type of disruption to the natural hair growth cycle.
Scientists have now discovered that pattern baldness occurs through the thinning of the hair strand and shrinking of the hair follicle, known as miniaturization. Some hair follicles appear to be genetically oversensitive to DHT. These follicles are located on the top of the head. The follicles on the side and back of the head are immune to DHT.
DHT binds to receptors found in the hair follicles and shrinks them. Over time, these follicles will produce thinner hairs, and they will grow for a shorter period of time. Eventually, those follicles will no longer produce hair and will leave the area bald.
The hopes are that some form of gene therapy will become available to convince the body that the follicles found in the DHT-sensitive areas are not unlike the follicles that are immune to the DHT and therefore stop them from being affected and dying.