Bald and Bold: The Science Behind Hair Loss

By: Lior Levy  |  January 22, 2018
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Ashkenazi Jews are known to have have certain unique genetic traits. While genetic balding is likely a universal trait, Ashkenazi Jews may have a greater tendency towards this trait than other groups.

In general, Genetic Male Pattern Balding affects roughly 50% of the male population. If you are a male in your 20s and you are experiencing an initial loss of hair, then you are experiencing a phenomenon known scientifically as Androgenetic Alopecia. This process starts with a retreating hairline and then gradually extends across the crown of the head. According to the  American Hair Loss Association,about 70% of men globally will become bald before turning 60.

Current studies show that hormonal, environmental and genetic factors play a dominant role in baldness. The androgen receptor, a key gene for baldness, is located on the x chromosomes, which is inherited from one’s mother. However, this is not the only gene involved, or even the most dominant gene. Men with bald fathers manifest increased odds for balding, in comparison to men whose fathers have full hair. Therefore, the assumption that your mom is to blame for your tendency to lose hair is a myth.

The growing understanding and research-based knowledge provides some hopeful vision, although a clear cure in not yet in the horizon. At present, studies show that the ability to keep your hair is related to your genetic sensitivity to an androgenic hormone known as Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a modified, highly potent form of the sex hormone, Testosterone. This sex hormone was found in higher levels than normal in hair from balding men; when DHT levels have been shown to decrease, or its activity had been blocked by a medication named Propecia, hair loss slows down or a reverse in hair loss is evident. Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, Joshua Zeichner reveals, “Medications such as finasteride target the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. By lowering the levels of DHT or by blocking its impact on hair follicles, the drug helps maintain or enhance regrowth of hair on the scalp.”

Hair transplantation is a surgical alternative which requires harvesting healthy follicles from the back of the head. Theses follicles are resistant to the harmful impact of DHT and therefore maintain healthy hair growth. Very small plugs of skin which contain healthy follicles, will be removed from the back of the head to the bald areas. The post-procedural hair distribution will be even around the scalp. At present, existing medicines for baldness have limited effectiveness and require ongoing use.

Recent discoveries in hair loss research  have shed light on a newly identified protein called KROX20, which stimulates the specialization of skin cells to hair producing cells. Scientists from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas were successful in blocking the production of KROX20 in mice, causing  baldness. Creating a topical medication that will stimulate the production of KROX20 and the following healthy hair growth, serves as a viable solution. Another promising solution is the effective use of stem cells which will differentiate into hair producing cells.

Although significant steps to cure baldness are being taken in research facilities all over the world, the first step for anyone who is bald should perhaps be to embrace your baldness. Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Michael Jordan, Patrick Stewart, Jason Statham, Larry David and many more have not allowed it to hold them back. Neither should you!

 

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