Researchers may have discovered an underlying cause of male baldness pattern and their findings suggest that the condition may be reversible.
In the study, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania examined hair follicles from 54 men seeking hair transplantation surgery. When they compared follicles from still-hairy samples to bald samples, they found that adult stem cells were still present, but progenitor stem cells were depleted.
In a healthy hair follicle, the region known as “the bulge” contains a packet of adult stem cells from which the hair is replenished. Scientists believe that adult stem cells may rely on progenitor cells, also found in the hair follicle, to spur hair growth. A loss of progenitor cells appears to cause a decline in the size of the hair shaft (follicles in the bald scalp never disappear completely, they only shrink in size).
Like stem cells, progenitor cells differentiate into specific type of cells. Unlike stem cells, which can replicate indefinitely, progenitor cells will only divide a limited number of times. The new finding has the potential to help experts develop new cures for baldness in both men and women, by creating a novel treatment to restore progenitor cell function.
The findings are published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.