One of the causes of baldness has been discovered – a breakthrough which could produce a remedy within a decade.
It could allow men to sport a thick thatch of their own hair until they are a ripe old age.
Scientists have found that stem cells do not develop properly in balding scalps compared with hairy ones. Working out a way to make the cells mature properly could allow hair to regrow.
Researcher George Cotsarelis said: ‘A large contingent of the population has male pattern baldness and some will go to any ends to try to reverse it.’
‘This lowers the bar for developing a treatment. It definitely gives us hope we can reverse the condition.’
Until now, Britain’s 7.4million bald and balding men have had limited options including a comb-over, toupee or transplant.
Dr Cotsarelis has spent years studying hair follicles – the tiny structures that sprout hairs –in a bid to get to the root cause hair loss.
Using cell samples taken from hair transplant patients, he compared the follicles from balding parts of the scalp to those from hirsute regions.
Tests done included counting the number of stem cells – the immature cells that turn into hair-producing cells.
This revealed the bald areas to have as many stem cells as hairy areas – but they were far less likely to have matured, the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports.
Dr Cotsarelis, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: ‘We asked: “ Are stem cells depleted in the bald scalp?”
'We were surprised to find the number of stem cells was the same in the bald part of the scalp compared with other places but did find a difference in the abundance of a specific type of cell, thought to be a progenitor cell.
‘This implies that there is a problem in the activation of stem cells converting to progenitor cells in the bald scalp.’
Working out a way to reactivate the stem cells and coax them into maturing could allow hair to regrow, giving men natural-looking locks.
Possibilities include a cream or lotion that is rubbed onto the scalp, or a technique that involves removing the stem cells from the scalp, kick-starting them in the lab and transplanting them back.
Dr Cotsarelis, a dermatologist whose work was part-funded by the U.S. government and by L’Oreal, said he would also like to investigate whether his findings equally apply to women.
Dr Cotsarelis, a dermatologist, whose work was part-funded by the US government and by L’Oreal, believes at treatment could be on the market within a decade.
“Wow this could be great for a lot of people we know” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire