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Baldness breakthrough - scientists

Wednesday January 5th, 2011

Scientists have made a breakthrough in the search for causes of male baldness, it was announced last night.

The findings involve the hot research area of stem cells - which generate other human cells, such as hair.

By pinning down the problem faced by the male scalp, scientists hope to identify scientific ways of treating the problem, which has vexed the male ego for millennia.

The latest discoveries show there is no shortage of stem cells in the bald parts of the male scalp - simply a shortage of the right type of cells.

Researchers say this is surprising - as it had been thought that baldness was caused by the loss of cells from which hair grows.

The missing cells are known as progenitor cells and the scientists say the problem seems to be that the stem cells on the scalp simply cease producing them.

The finding will spur a search for chemical trigger to activate these progenitor cells.

The research was reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation by dermatologist Professor George Cotsareli, of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.

The researchers say the first kind of treatment to emerge may involve the implanting of active stem cells onto the bald scalp.

Professor Cotsareli said: "We asked: 'Are stem cells depleted in 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 bald scalp.

"However, the fact that there are normal numbers of stem cells in bald scalp gives us hope for reactivating those stem cells."

J Clin Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI44478

Tags: Dermatology | Menís Health | North America

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