Are we getting closer to curing baldness?

Despite decades of research, we still don’t have a cure for baldness. But just how close are we to an effective definitive treatment?

Baldness is a very common condition affecting around half of all men by the age of 501. It also affects women, although this is rarer and usually just affects the very top of the head. For some people, baldness is a normal and acceptable part of ageing. For others, it’s highly distressing. There are treatments available, but we still don’t have a cure for baldness. Read on to find out more.

Baldness: an overview

curing baldness

In men, hair loss starts at the temples and the hairline gradually recedes over time to form an ‘M’ shape. Eventually, some men will be completely bald. Male pattern baldness is hereditary, and is linked to levels of testosterone in the body which converts to DHT, a hormone which causes hair follicles to shrink. Hair loss can start at any age1.

In women, the hair grows thinner all over and can form a bald patch on the top of the head, but the hairline does not recede and rarely results in total baldness. The causes of female baldness are not as clear, and it’s not thought to be hereditary. Baldness is most common after the menopause which means it may be linked to hormone levels1.

Treating baldness

In women, the hair grows thinner all over and can form a bald patch on the top of the head, but the hairline does not recede and rarely results in total baldness. The causes of female baldness are not as clear, and it’s not thought to be hereditary. Baldness is most common after the menopause which means it may be linked to hormone levels1.

Finasteride

Finasteride is a treatment for male pattern baldness, that you take once a day in tablet form. It works by preventing testosterone from being converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT causes hair follicles to shrink, which is what causes the hair loss. By preventing its production, finasteride helps to stop baldness and even promote hair regrowth1.

It can take up to six months before the results of finasteride to become visible, and the balding process starts again within a year if you stop taking it. It’s therefore recommended to begin taking the tablets as soon the hair loss starts.

Side effects include a loss of sex drive and an inability to get or maintain an erection, although they are uncommon with less than one in 100 men experiencing side effects1.

Minoxidil

curing baldness

Minoxidil is used to treat both male and female pattern baldness. It comes as a lotion which you rub into your scalp once a day, and it’s available without a prescription. It’s not clear how it works, but it has been shown to stop or slow hair loss in some people and promote hair regrowth in others. Women tend to see better results with minoxidil than men do; around one in four women report hair regrowth1.

As with finasteride, it takes several months of using minoxidil to see any effect. Any new hair will fall out if you stop using it, and the balding process will resume. There are two strengths available: 2% and 5%. Although it’s not clear if the 5% lotion is more effective, it is more likely to cause side effects such as a dry or itchy scalp1.

New research and potential cures

The existing treatments aren’t effective on everyone and they have to be used consistently otherwise hair loss resumes. However, there are many researchers still striving for a cure for baldness. Several recent discoveries have been made2, which may in time lead to promising new treatments for male and female pattern baldness.

  • KROX20 protein, SCF gene: This protein has just been identified by researchers at the University of Texas as the one which ‘switches on’ skin cells and gives them the signal to grow hair. It also produces SCF (Stem Cell Factor) which plays a crucial role in hair colour.

  • Genetics of male pattern baldness: A recent study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh has identified 287 genetic signals involved in male pattern baldness.

  • Faulty immune cells: University of California-San Francisco researchers have found that defects in an immune cell called Tregs play a role in male pattern baldness.

  • JAK inhibitors: A Columbia University Medical Centre study has found that hair growth can be restored by inhibiting the Janus Kinase (JAK) family of enzymes located in hair follicles.

  • Stem cells: Researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have developed a way to create new hair using stem cells.

To find out more about male pattern baldness read our article with Lloyds Online Doctor.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.

Sources
1http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hair-loss/Pages/Treatment.aspx
2http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317788.php

You may also like…

Eye health can be easily neglected as some serious eye problems don’t have any visible symptoms.
This is why you need to make regular trips to the ophthalmologist. Read more

We’re all aware of how important sleep is for our health. But are we getting enough? And, if not, how can we change that?
Read more

It's World Diabetes Day on 14th November – let's look more closely at the symptoms and treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Read more

It's the start of the celebration season, but how much is too much, and how is it affecting your health?
Read more

There no waiting lists when you pay for yourself. Download our treatment price list
Sign up to Health Matters updates