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Is age-related hair loss reversible?
Age-related hair loss is often a major problem, especially for men. Researchers have now figured out how to reverse the process of gradually balding.
In their current investigation, the scientists at the New York School of Medicine have succeeded in developing a method to reverse the gradual formation of baldness. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Nature Communications".
Researchers activate special brain path
The experts achieved a real medical breakthrough by successfully regrowing hair on wounded skin. This could also cause a gradual balding to be reversed. The researchers activated a special path in the brain. This is very active when babies are in the womb and hair follicles are formed. However, this path is no longer active in aged or wounded skin.
Experts examined so-called fibroblasts
The study examined damaged skin in laboratory mice and focused on cells called fibroblasts that secrete collagen. Collagen is a protein that is responsible for maintaining the shape and strength of skin and hair. The researchers also focused on fibroblasts because they are known to help control some of the biological processes involved in healing. The research team activated a special brain pathway through which the cells communicate with each other. By triggering communication between these cells, hair growth was initiated in the mice within four weeks. Hair roots and shaft structures appeared after nine weeks, the authors of the study explain.
Hair grew on damaged skin
The results show that stimulating fibroblasts can trigger hair growth through a special path in the brain, which was previously not observed in wound healing. The regrowth of hair on damaged skin is a challenge that has not yet been overcome in medicine. People with trauma, burns and other injuries could benefit. The results are not only an advance for the treatment of wounded skin, but they are also promising for the improvement of hair growth in mature skin, the doctors explain.
Side effects of current hair loss remedies
Other experiments that looked at the specific path in our brain showed an increased risk of tumors. To avoid such risks, the team only turned on fibroblasts that were just below the surface of the skin, where the roots of the hair follicles first appear. Probable drug targets for hair regrowth must now be identified, the researchers say. Medications currently licensed can have undesirable side effects. For example, minoxidil increases blood flow to the scalp and nourishes the hair follicles. This helps about two thirds of the patients, but can have side effects ranging from fast heartbeat to swollen feet and abdominal pain. Finasteride blocks an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is another form of the hormone that causes balding. Finasteride causes hair growth in up to 80 percent of men, but every sixth user experiences impotence. The risk increases the longer people take the drug. (as)