- Revolutionary hair loss treatments could
be on the way after skin specialists found a link between a brain cell
growth protein and the rate at which hair falls out.
- The German scientists found that by increasing
the body's levels of brain growth proteins they also increased the rate
at which hair falls out.
- Restricting levels meant hair was shed
at a slower rate.
- The finding could lead to improved treatments
to get rid of unwanted hair and for treating baldness, according to a report
in New Scientist magazine.
- Mousy hair
- Dr Ralf Paus and colleagues carried out
the research at Humbolt University in Berlin.
- They looked at growth cycles of hair
follicles and their relationship with brain cell development.
- Their earlier research showed that when
mice lost hair, there was a high concentration of brain-derived neurotrophic
factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-4 (NT-4) around their follicles.
- BDNF and NT-4 are two growth factors
thought to be important in the development of brain cells.
- The earlier research also showed that
the genes that make the proteins are abnormally active at the same time.
- Balding from birth
- For the new study, the team genetically-engineered
mice to produce excess quantities of both the factors.
- They found that the mice shed their hair
- In mice engineered to produce neither
factor, hair took longer than normal to fall out.
- "This is the first evidence that
growth factors previously thought to be important for the development of
brain cells are also important for the growth of hair follicles,"
Dr Paus told the magazine.
- The scientists think the proteins work
by binding to a receptor called tyrosine kinase B.
- Treatments in development
- Practical uses of the finding would be
increasing the presence of BDNF and NT-4 around unwanted hair or using
drugs to block the receptor to hold baldness at bay.
- Such drugs have already been developed
for use in diseases such as Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis, said Dr
- "It's not too far-fetched to propose
using them for hair disorders, particularly if you can apply them topically
in lotions," he said.
- However, it was too early to tell whether
the findings in mice would apply to humans, he added.
- This is because mice grow hair in synchronised
waves whereas in humans each hair follicle grows independently.