January 5th, 2011
10:07 AM ET
If you're a guy who's lost a lot of hair, there may be hope in getting it back, via stem cells.
New research in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that male-pattern baldness may result from stem cells in the scalp failing to give rise to progenitor cells, which are responsible for growing hair.
That means that a potential treatment could make use of stem cells to grow new hair, researchers say.
"Even in a bald scalp, there are stem cells there that you could activate to get new hair," said Dr. George Cotsarelis, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and lead study author.
Hair follicles normally go through a period during which the hair can become several feet long. In baldness, that period decreases dramatically.
In a man who has a bald area on the scalp, there are still follicles present, but they are essentially microscopic – making hairs that are not even visible.
Cotsarelis and colleagues found that bald areas of men's scalps had a normal amount of stem cells, but were deficient in progenitor cells, which generate hair.
The study suggests that if scientists can figure out the signals involved in getting stem cells to produce a hair, and focus on the process of stem cells leading to progenitor cells, they may be able to come up with a re-growth treatment.
Keep in mind, however, that this study was done only in men. Women can also experience hair loss, but the stem cell phenomenon has not been studied in this detail with the female scalp yet.
This is the latest development toward an understanding of baldness, but not the only recent one. Last year, scientists identified a gene that affects hair growth.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.