In my opinion, baldness can be perfectly sexy, and tons of folks – both men and women – are proud to rock it. But there are others, who, if given the choice, would opt for a full head of hair. And it’s to the latter group that I point out a study which appeared in mid-February 2011 in the online journal PLoS One. The study was written by scientists who, while working on an experiment involving mice’s response to stress, accidentally stumbled upon a potential cure for baldness. Tara Parker-Pope described the study, in New York Timesarticle published on February 16, 2011:
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Veterans Administration were working with genetically altered mice that typically develop head-to-tail baldness as a result of overproducing a stress hormone.
She explained that the scientists weren’t a bit concerned about the baldness of the mice. Instead, they were intent on preventing elevated stress hormones from affecting the mice’s digestive tract. That’s why they administered a compound – a peptide called astressin-B – to the hair-poor critters. Again, Tara Parker-Pope:
The researchers treated the bald mice for five days with the compound and then returned them to the cages, where they scampered about with several furry mice from a control group.
Three months later, the scientists went back to the cage to conduct additional experiments. They were surprised by what they saw inside — all of the mice had full heads and backs of hair. The once-bald mice, eventually identified through ear tags, were indistinguishable from their normal, furry cage mates.
The experts who conducted this initial experiment performed it several times afterward, each time with the same result: hair grew back onto the balding mice. Exactly why this happened is, as yet, unknown. So, as Parker-Pope noted in her article, the results of this experiment are far from conclusive.
That is, the ability of this study to immediately aid balding humans is limited. For example, various hair-loss experts have pointed out that hair growth in man and mice are different. They also say that a compound like astressin-B might target stress-induced balding in humans, but it might not “cure” balding that has a purely genetic basis.
All parties seem to agree that more research is needed. This, in response to a study that appeared on February 16, 2011 in the online journal PLoS One, about an accidental discovery that about what causes – and cures – balding.
SUGGESTED LINK: HAIR TRANSPLANTATION
Beth Lebwohl researches, writes and helps produce science content in audio and video formats for EarthSky. She is one of the authors on EarthSky.org, a script-writer for our podcasts, and helps host our English science podcasts in 90-second, 8-minute and 22-minute formats. Beth came to EarthSky in 2006 from the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Astrophysics, where she was surrounded by some of the greatest telescope-building, equation-wielding, code-writing physicists of our time. And they made her think . . . this science thing . . . it's pretty cool.