How many hours are consumed by Americans in worry and frustration in an effort to find a way to deal with thin hair or baldness? It is estimated that we spend at least a billion dollars a year on hoped for solutions. Is it possible that sometime in our future, we may see an end to hair loss?
Scientists have now discovered why some people have more hair than others. They may be well on their way to treating and finding a cure for an inherited form of baldness. Their research was aimed at finding a solution for a condition called ectodermal dysplasia. This inherited condition is linked to the X chromosome and usually affects men. Symptoms include; fewer than normal teeth, absent sweat glands, thin skin and few or absent hair follicles.
Recently, researchers at the University of Manchester were able to breed mice with more fur than their untreated counterparts. They were able to increase the number of hair follicles in these furrier mice while they were still developing in the womb. The scientists discovered that during development, certain skin cells have the ability to become other kinds of cells to form body parts and tissue, such as teeth, nails, sweat glands or hair follicles. Cells that become hair follicles are affected by three proteins that are produced by genes. (gene: A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA) Researchers discovered that one of these proteins works in the embryo (the earliest stage of development) to determine the individualís hair pattern. They were successful in treating mice. This significant accomplishment, in time, could possibly be replicated in humans.
While not directly linked to male-pattern baldness, the Manchester research will certainly be of interest to pharmaceutical companies, who are always working to find clues to hair follicle development and, specifically, why some follicles shrink and many men and women experience male-pattern baldness as they get older. It may be years before the first human subject experiences success in new hair growth but on the whole, this is a very exciting discovery. Thin hair and male pattern baldness may be unknown to future generations.
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