New genetic baldness treatment offers hope
20th August 2012
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania lead by Dr George Costarelis believe they may have found the reason why we go bald. Dr Costarelis and his dermatological team have discovered the enzyme Prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) that is responsible for preventing hair follicles from maturing. The link between genetics and baldness has long been common knowledge but the cause has not. When the team analysed the scalps of balding men, they found levels of PDG2 to be three times higher in areas in which the hair was thinning. The research suggests that PGD2 prevents the follicle cells from maturing, so blocking PGD2 would allow the hair to grow again.  Dr Costarelis found that bald men have cells capable of making hair, which adds weight to the argument that PGD2 is responsible for stopping otherwise healthy, capable cells of producing hair. Back in March 2012 the journal Science Translational Medicine reported that in tests on mice the compound PGD2 stunted hair growth. Drugs that block this protein are already on the market as they are used to treat asthma and allergies, and that is good news according to Dr Costarelis: “The nice thing about dermatology and hair loss in general is that you can take compounds that maybe are being used as a pill, and put them into a topical formulation.” Dr Costarelis went on to add: “We certainly think it would be good at preventing hair loss but we don’t know for sure that it would regrow”. Dr Costarelis has also announced this week that he is in talks with several pharmaceutical companies about developing a treatment that he says: “could be available in two years”. Lab tests suggest the treatment may also help women who are losing their hair. Female hair loss carries an even greater stigma than the male condition, but is not as uncommon as many people believe. About 40 per cent of women suffer from some form of hair loss as a result of hormone changes during menopause. For men this number is significantly higher, by the age of 50 nearly half of all men have some degree of male pattern baldness, a number which rockets to 70 per cent by the age of 70. It also seems that being famous or even royal doesn’t protect you from baldness. As we reported back in July 2012 Wayne Rooney and Louis Walsh have both undergone hair transplant procedures and in the news today Doctor Asim Shahmalak has predicted Prince William will be bald by the time he is 40. While celebrities have undergone hair transplant procedures, these remain out of reach for most people due to their high price. In the meantime before this PGD2 blocker is released onto the market, there are licensed products on the market such as Propecia (Finasteride) and Regaine (Minoxydil) that have both been clinically proven to help with male hair loss.