08-20-2011, 03:36 PM
Going bald can be a hairy experience. Now scientists think they've identified the cause of male pattern baldness as a genetic defect. The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggests that in men who go bald, the decreasing size of the hair follicles could be linked to the loss of the hair follicle stem -the progenitor cells needed for hair to grow normally. Researchers believe that the failure to produce normal progenitor cells could be the cause of androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss that includes male pattern baldness. If the progenitor cells could be helped to function normally, male baldness could be cured, BBC News reports. One day, medication in the form of a cream could be rubbed onto the scalp, where it would nudge the stem cells into growing normal hair. The University of Pennsylvania team that conducted the research looked at men undergoing hair transplants, comparing the men's hair follicles both in bald patches and areas of the scalp where hair was growing. They found that while the bald areas had as many hair making stem cells as a normal scalp, the men made fewer progenitor cells. "This implies that there is a problem in the activation of stem cells converting progenitor cells in bald scalp," Dr. George Cotsarelis, who led the research, told BBC News. "The fact that there are normal numbers of stem cells in bald scalp gives us hope for reactivating those stem cells," he said. Some two-thirds of American men experience hair loss by age 50, according to WebMD and about one quarter of men who have male pattern baldness start going bald before they turn 21 years old.