Balding may be a stem cell problem
January 5th, 2011
10:07 AM ET

Balding may be a stem cell problem

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.

soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. doedizzle

    YES my bald brothers.. sign me up! i'll take 2 bottles please:-)

    January 5, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. crew

    hair is just one pain in the a$$. buz it high and tight. its clean, sharp, and in style.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. crew

    I heard this in 2001 announcement on Hardball – Chris Mathews interview they were growing hair via stem cells on rats. They said it would be completed in 10 years for humans...so, welcome 2011.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. steve

    I wish i would go bald on my face so I didn't have to shave!

    January 5, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. mark

    Oh please be true. im 38 now my hairline is on top of my head.i keep my headshaved and i hate it. Its not me i had a full head of hair when i was younger.the stress of my hair loss shows in the unhealthy foods i choose.which causes obesity. which will cause health problems.an th worst of all im still single. hope it comes soon.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dave Callahan

    Stemcelex is the latest medical breakthrough within the field’s major areas of hair
    loss study and medical knowledge: functional genomics, steroid hormones, and
    signal transduction, all focusing on the relationship between steroid hormone,
    adenyl cyclase in the cell membrane and cell survival (including stem cells) in the
    human scalp. The hair follicle is one of a few human tissues containing stem
    cells. The stem cells are interspersed within the basal layer of the outer sheath
    and in an area called the bulge. From this reservoir stem cells migrate to hair
    matrix and start to divide and differentiate. Their behavior is controlled by
    numerous cytokines produced by cells of the dermal papilla. Dermal papilla cells
    and some cells of the inner and outer sheaths of the follicle from androgendependent
    hairs have androgen receptors in their cytoplasm and nucleus.
    Androgens indirectly control hair growth by influencing the synthesis and release
    of cytokines from the dermal papilla cells.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scott

      Thanks for trying to sound intelligent and yet sadly accomplishing nothing. What was the point of your post, to impress readers? How about explaining what Stemcelex actually is, rather than lecturing like you have a PhD in the subject.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • meemee

      On the other hand, I appreciate the details since I, like many out there, have studied anatomy and physiology and recognize the details.


      January 5, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  7. hiandbye

    to all the guys who are bald or going bald – embrace it like bruce willis, ed harris, jason statham- and be confident and aggressive an no one will notice!

    January 5, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wilson

      You forgot to add Walter White. He starts off as a meek wussy, but after getting cancer and losing all of his hair, he turns into a bad-ass guy called Heisenberg.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • nitrous

      I'll embrace it when I have their money and talent.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • stejo

      Walter Rox!

      January 5, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
    • meemee

      Isn't it interesting that the best advice here from dudes is to become a bad ass? In the mental health sciences that is called "over compensation." No harm ever came from that, except perhaps the Nazi movement in Germany in the last century.

      January 5, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  8. jimbo

    Look out Fabio

    January 5, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. wilson

    The answer is easy. They just need to figure out why hair started growing out of my ears and apply that to my scalp.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Old Grey Hair

    Well, if they can make it grow, can they make what I have left turn back to its' original color?

    January 5, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      That's what "Just for Men" is for! It works just well enough to fool a younger woman for a night, which is all that's needed.

      January 5, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    This has been Joe Biden, reporting from Washington.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. nitrous

    Just my luck my other "head" will grow a Jew-fro.

    January 5, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. kevin

    Big deal! it is only hair, sorry sir you will never walk but we can give you beautiful flowing hair!

    January 5, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. stejo

    from a balDing dude with bigger problems – as much as I would love to have my hair back...I think maybe using stem cells to grow new organs for people who need them should be a priority...although having lustrous locks would definitely be nice. Would they come in another color than grey?

    January 5, 2011 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. olddude

    Obama has accomplished more good things in 2 years than Bush did in 8. The problem is that Obama is too busy to waste time patting himself on the back (remember "Great Job, Brownie!"?) Who created our huge deficit? The same party that was going to put our SS $ into the stock market, started 2 wars on very shaky/invalid premises, trashed our middle east relations, encouraged and rewarded outsourcing of American jobs, and who gave back the Clinton budget surplus back as a reward for electing them into office, rather than saving/investing it for our future. There's a reason they call it Social "Security". Bush, Cheney and co. made the rich richer (for a while), and the poor and middle classes poorer. Horrible thing wanting to ensure that all Americans can have fair access to healthcare. I can't believe the folks against guaranteed healthcare, and who don't care about the poor are the same ones who think they're better "Christians" (and thus humans, in their little minds) than people who support what Obama is trying to do, which is to fix a boatload of problems from previous administrations while trying to provide security and opportunity for future generations. Obama didn't cause the mess we're in, and if Republicans have their way, things will get a lot worse before (if) they ever get better. The past 2 years proves that Republicans would rather torpedo the country than support anything positive the President and Democrats try to do. All they want is power and more tax breaks for the rich.

    January 5, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mike

    This is just like in the movie Idiocracy. All the scientists in the world start shifting their research to curing baldness and impotence, and the rest of the world just keeps getting dumber. Meanwhile, only the stupid are breeding, and the ideals of how fat you can be while still being "healthy" are pushed higher and higher. The world doesn't have to end for it to be the beginning of the end of humanity 😛

    January 5, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tom Cruise once

    Thousands of birds and fishes dying, and now balding heads! OMG! Gotta start repenting, now, everyone. Repent.
    If hairs greying too, repent harder!

    January 5, 2011 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Victor

    As a man who lost his hair in his 20s...all the talk about hair loss is silly. Shave your head and get on with your life. Girls see you as confident and it saves on haircuts and a bunch of hair products...not to mention the fact that sweating your hair is for pusses...just sayin.

    January 5, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • YOUR MOM

      Heh, I bet you are tall. Try being short and bald. It's a double whammy, no way around it! The head shaved style is also a "style." It sets one into a certain perception. My lifelong experience is that women DO care, even if they say they don't. So unless you have lots of money, are tall, and young, a bald head is NOT an asset or even neutral. And the money is the principal item in that attraction.

      January 5, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
  19. the queen

    i have done research projects on curing,unborn infants,using their OWN stem cells -in utero- to rid a fatal blood diseaes called thalessemia.to see such a wonderful scientific advancement used on bald guys heads is a bit of a let down, though still intereting.and trust me, somatic stem cells are a wonderful thing but nothing can chase away luekemia in a dying child like embryonic stem cells.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • meemee

      I am amazed that someone with such a short circuited intellect could be doing stem cell research. We funded huge amounts of money on space exploration because scientists KNEW that the byproducts of that research would be new products for the everyday public in seemingly mundane situations. The computer you use now is part of that. (I know the man at Northrop who supervised the project).

      There is no loss to any research or development of treatments for other diseases because of this research and you ought to know that and be able to admit it. As funny as we always view the issue, millions and millions of men suffer shame, career and personal life limitations, often because of the way society and self views the issue. There is no telling how often a lifetime of perceived limits can affect one's basic mental health. That alone is worth the effort. Besides, these researchers are probably not being called off a "more important" project, but rather being employed as a result of this research.

      January 5, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
  20. QuietStormX

    I noticed my hair loss around age 25. My hair loss in on top only. I have plenty of hair on the sides and back of my head. I look nice with a shaved head and really don't mind my baldness. But I would like to have a full head of hair again. And someday maybe a stem cell treatment could remody that....

    January 5, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Timetraveler

    "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."

    Yeah. Yeah that's it. I'm not bald. I just have invisible hair. That makes me feel much better. I'll see if I can get women to buy that one. Thanks Dr. Cotsarelis.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. BillYoMa'm

    The problem with this article, and others like it, is that they only give an observation of a cell that doesn't produce hair. It doesn't go as far as to say why its like that.

    The currently accepted theory is flawed, in that it doesn't explain why dht causes body hair growth but hair loss on top of the head, among other issues. Do some research and you will find that the hormones that are supposedly responsible for hair loss are also bone growth promotors. This may explain why people who go bald usually have huge skulls.

    January 5, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. rcpr

    this is the same guy that had some magic potion back in 2007. if I was guessing, it is tme for him to apply for another government grant. anyone willing to bet he is doing this research with tax dollars? I will!

    hocus-pocus crap...


    January 6, 2011 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. KC

    "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."..........WOW!! REALLY?!? Okay, so you've still got nothing, all right.....lol..

    January 6, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Day's Girl

    Thinking that you can come up with something to solve it still isn't the same as actually solving it...just saying....lol

    January 7, 2011 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. David Bohannon

    If you need people to volunteer for an experimental procedure to see if hair will grow back I am willing to volunteer myself due to true fact that I am only 25 and the hair on the open of my head does not grow as fast or as thick as the hair on the sides of my head and it is kind of embarrassing to have a clown look at the age of 25.

    January 8, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kris

    I am with David, if you need a guinea pig for testing please consider me. I am 32 and i have been balding since i was 23. I have just recently decided to take it all off and I have to say that I am not happy.

    January 10, 2011 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ell

    Have any of you thought of laser surgery? I've seen it here and am thinking about looking into it.
    Just wanted to get some feedback from 1st hand experience?!


    March 9, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
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