It may not be a cure for baldness, but it seems scientists have begun rooting (pun intended) around for the real cause for why men lose hair.
To begin with, let’s dispel the common belief that baldness is a lack of hair. There is, in fact, hair on bald spots—it’s just invisible to the naked eye. So what can be done to make these microscopic scalp tendrils bloom?
Experts say that stem cells may be an answer.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers explore the possibility of converting the dormant stem cells on your head into “progenitor cells,” the more mature, hair-producing cells. The key is that bald spots have just as many stem cells as their hairy counterparts—the difference is that hair follicles in bald patches shrink instead of disappear, making the new hairs too small to see.
As head researcher Dr. George Cotsarelis puts it, “the fact that there are normal numbers of stem cells in bald scalp gives us hope for reactivating those stem cells.”
Cotsarelis’ team drew their data from tests done on hair-transplant recipients, comparing the number of hair follicles on bald versus hairy spots. The reason their results are drawing so much attention is because prior to their research, it was thought that testosterone and genetics were the primary suspects in your hairline’s rapid retreat. But while these factors are still in play, this new knowledge could send male-pattern baldness on its own retreat.
Researchers are hoping to develop a cream that will help stem cells grow normal hair. As their work is still in its nascent state, take comfort in the words of James Taylor: “It doesn’t seem to have made a lot of difference that I’m as bald as a billiard ball!”