Approximately 80 per cent of men under 70 suffer from male pattern baldness, a condition that was widely believed to be caused by the permanent loss of hair follicles on the scalp. However, this belief has been challenged by recent research into the effect of prostaglandins on hair loss. Indeed, while certain prostaglandins actually stimulate hair growth, prostaglandin-D2 (or PGD2, for the scientists amongst us) has recently been discovered to be a potential cause of male pattern baldness.
What is male pattern baldness?
Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is a condition that causes the minimisation of hair follicles on the scalp, leading to the production of microscopic hairs which grow more slowly than other hair. As such, they do not grow quickly enough to replace the minimised follicles. However, with the advent of new research into the effect of prostaglandins, the cause of male pattern baldness is disputed. While previous theories suggested that follicles were permanently destroyed by male pattern baldness, it has recently been suggested that follicles are actually intact, but their ability to produce hair is inhibited by prostaglandin-D2, especially when activated by the protein known as GPR44. There is a threefold increase of PGD2 on the bald part of the scalp than on the hairy part.
What does this mean for sufferers of male pattern baldness?
Previous treatments for male pattern baldness have often involved the replacement of impaired follicles with those from areas of the scalp unaffected by baldness. However, the recent theories that suggest that follicles remain physically undamaged may allow sufferers of androgenetic alopecia to hope for treatments that repair the ability of these follicles to produce hair at the same rate as normal follicles. Indeed, it appears that research into the receptor and activator of PGD2, GPR44, may provide medical experts with inroads into new kinds of treatment that will combat, or possibly prevent, male pattern baldness.
What about the gender difference in androgenetic alopecia?
Although male pattern baldness occurs primarily in men (as suggested by the name), women can suffer from it too. Until recently, there has been ambiguity over the reason that both genders suffer from this condition, but the discovery of prostaglandin-D2 and GPR44 as causes of it may go some way to addressing this. Experts hope that finding treatments that directly tackle the possibility of prostaglandin-D2 as a cause of male pattern baldness will benefit female sufferers of androgenetic alopecia, too.