Those with slick domes, thinning tops and receding hairlines may one day be helped by the discovery of genes that put people at risk for baldness and a stem cell that may replenish hair follicles.
Two studies released today in the journal Nature Genetics may help explain why some people lose their hair, and how they might eventually grow it back, scientists from London-based GlaxoSmithKline, the U.K. and Sweden said.
Hair loss affects one in four Caucasian men by age 30. While drugs such as Johnson & Johnson's Rogaine and Merck & Co.'s Propecia can help hair regrow or prevent loss, they don't work for everyone. Treatments that target the DNA responsible may be more promising, said Tim Spector, who led the gene study.
“Early prediction before hair loss starts may lead to some interesting therapies that are more effective than treating late-stage hair loss,” said Spector, a researcher in Kings College London's department of twin research and genetic epidemiology.
Spector and colleagues analyzed genes of 578 men in Switzerland with early-onset hair-loss, and compared them with those of 547 retaining their hair. They confirmed their findings against groups from the U.K., Iceland and the Netherlands, studying about 5,000 people in all.
Those with hair loss commonly shared variations of two genes that together made them seven times more likely to bald, researchers from Kings College London and GlaxoSmithKline Plc wrote in the journal Nature Genetics.
The research links the genes to hair loss, but further studies are needed to prove the link. The genetic variations were also found in women, but the link wasn't statistically significant and more study is needed, the authors said. The study was partly funded by Glaxo.
In the stem cell study, researchers led by Viljar Jaks of Sweden's Karolinska Institute examined mouse hair follicles for rapid growth. They found a protein, Lgr5, on long-lived, active stem cells in hair cells; the same protein has been identified on stem cells in the intestine, they said in the study.