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Breakthrough in curing Baldness

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania after experimenting on mice may have unlocked a cure for the problem of hair loss.

The method involves a genetically based remedy for regenerating follicles from which hair grows. This comes as a surprise since scientists and researchers had long supposed that hair follicles which become dormant in nature cannot contribute to further hair growth. One can find approximately 100,000 follicles on a human head and each produces a single strand of hair.

The new study has helped destroy established notions on hair growth, bringing a glimmer of hope into the lives of an estimated 35 million balding Americans.

The study was published in the British journal Nature, by dermatologist George Cotsarelis, who is also co-founder of a licensed company, Follica, which offers hair restoration treatment.

Hair restoration treatment that costs people around 1.5 billion every year, involves painful hair implants and surgery. Hair transplantation, a common method, relocates flesh from the back of the head and neck. In Flap surgery, a portion of the bald area is replaced with hair-bearing skin. There are several other treatments and drugs in the market that claim to be the panacea for hair loss. Hair regeneration with the help of these has proved to be a rather tedious process with skewed results. The new study is being looked upon with great interest as it may prove to be just what the world is looking for. It may provide solutions for male baldness, acne, overgrowth and scalp conditions.

According to Dr Vera Price, scientific advisory board member of Follica and director of San Francisco Hair Research Centre, "This is an extremely exciting discovery and shows promise for treatment of follicular disorders such as hair loss and unwanted excess hair."

Tests on mice showed that in the process of healing a wound, instead of forming scar tissue, stimulation can lead to regeneration of skin replete with hair follicles and oil glands. This can be achieved by introducing Wnt proteins, which play a major role in hair follicle development.

George Cotsarelis said, "We have found that we can influence wound healing with 'wnts' or other proteins that allow the skin to heal in a way that has less scarring and includes all the normal structures of the skin, such as hair follicles and oil glands, rather than just a scar." With the introduction of wnt proteins, scientists have been able to double the number of hair follicles.

However skeptical doctors say that publishing the findings is a long way from actual treatment. Marilyn Sherlock, chairman of the Institute of Trichologists, said “This is interesting but it would be more interesting to see what happens in subsequent research”.

Balding and hair loss are problems that afflict million across the globe. It is interesting to note that

• Excess of testosterone is thought to be the leading cause of baldness.

• Male pattern baldness begins with receding of hair from the temples, forehead and crown.

• More than 30 percent men face hair loss before old age.

• Around 100,000 follicles present on the head produce hair and it takes 6 months for a follicle to produce new hair.

• Specialists suggest massaging and stretching of the scalp help in improving blood flow to the follicles.

• Regaine and Propecia are prescription drugs that are used to treat baldness.

• Hair transplants are the most expensive solution.

The new breakthrough is being regarded with interest.

Dr Denis Headon, of Manchester University, has found the study to be of significance and said, "We thought the number of hair follicles we have is set before we were born and can only go downhill from there. This work shows that new hair follicles are made in adult skin, at least when it is healing a wound. The researchers also found a way to artificially soup up this natural process... by giving the skin a molecular signal. The implication is that it might be simpler than we thought to make new hair follicles as a treatment for hair loss."