Scientists Identify Molecule That Makes Men Go Bald

By Sarah Zhang | March 22, 2012 11:13 am

spacing is important

Although male pattern baldness affects some 80% of Caucasian men by age 70, it’s remained a puzzle to scientists. Existing treatments were discovered by chance: Rogaine was originally a drug for high-blood pressure and Propecia was for prostate enlargement. In a new study, however, researchers have identified a molecule called Prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) that inhibits hair growth in men, which could provide a target for future drugs designed to treat baldness.

The first thing researchers did was find a good use for the scalp fragments, usually discarded, from men undergoing hair transplant surgery. (Well, where else do you find volunteers to get scalped?) Comparing bald and non-bald tissue from these scalp parts, they discovered that the bald scalp had ten times as much PGD2 and elevated levels of PTGDS, the enzyme that makes PGD2, compared to normal scalp. The gene for PTGDS is also expressed more when there’s lots of testosterone floating around, which may explain why baldness is so endemic to men.

Once scientists identified PGD2 as a potential culprit in baldness, trials in mice were the next step. They found that mutant mice with unusually high levels of PGD2 also had the atrophied hair follicles of bald men and grew less fur. When the researchers put PGDon the skin of live mice, as well as on human follicles they’d grown in a dish, they found the molecule inhibited hair growth there, too. Verdict on PGD2 in the case of male pattern baldness? Guilty.

Men who object to baldness may find comfort in new treatments made possible by this discovery: Hair growth inhibition by PGDrequires a receptor called GPR44, so knocking out this receptor could mean saying bye-bye to comb-overs.

Image via Shutterstock / Zurijeta

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Bald Dude

    EVERY SCIENTIST ON EARTH NEEDS TO WORK ON THIS UNTIL WE HAVE CURED IT. THEN MOVE TO STDS.

  • Ken

    “When the researchers put PGD2 on the skin of live mice, as well as on human follicles they’d grown in a dish, they found the molecule inhibited hair growth there, too. ” This could be useful in other areas. There are times when you want hairless skin, e.g. womens’ legs. This could be a safe, painless hair removal/prevention drug!

  • http://www.experiencedpsychologist.com Dr.Richard

    Side effects please!? We dont want to knock out the GPR44 receptor, and have something funny happen, like turn yellow, with a tiny penis. Keep us all updated.

  • David C. Tiedeman

    I’m a sixty one year old male that is starting to loose my hair and would almost do anything to retain my hair… if you could help me with this problem it would be awesome.
    Thank You

  • James

    How about a tonic or shampoo that neutralizes the molecules instead of knocking out the receptors?

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    which could provide a target for future drugs designed to treat baldness.

    Assuming that baldness is a condition that needs to be treated. Some of us don’t mind looking like Bruce Willis, Sean Connery, or Jason Statham. ;-) The only treatment we really need is the one that wipes out the kind of prejudice that thinks baldness is a disease that needs treatment.

  • Brian Too

    Bad molecule! Baaaaddd molecule!!

  • http://discovermagazine.com Iain

    Target the receptors, then in a few generations we’ll have resistant receptors and the war against the chrome dome will drag on and on and on and on ……

  • Sam

    I first read it here: http://tothecenter.com/2012/03/cause-of-male-pattern-baldness-dicovered/ and I couldn’t believe it. Finally, all of the men will stop complaining about their hair. :D

  • TheCritic

    Nope. Not how evolution works. We’re not in a Red Queen race with ourselves and shampoo.

  • Mephane

    Now I am wondering if that molecule might not just affect the hair on the head; for example, would it also affect beard growth? That would be a place where the stuff might actually be desirable to many.

  • Paul

    I agree : The only treatment we really need is the one that wipes out the kind of prejudice that thinks baldness is a disease that needs treatment.

  • Clement

    They need to find a way to redistribute the molecule from the head to the back.

  • Jean

    Actually, Clement, they need to redistribute the molecule from the back to the head. Hairy backs are the pits. LOL
    Bald men don’t bother me in the least. Who cares what’s on top of the head. It’s what’s inside the head that counts. I know it bothers guys, though, so I hope this is a breakthrough for them. I hope it will also work on women as my own hair is thinning in the front. As Paul said, there is a prejudice against bald men, and fat people and people who are different in any way. Lets find a molecule that wipes out prejudice and no one will have to worry about being bald, or other wise not perfect.

  • Other Bald Dude

    @Bald Dude: YOU ARE THE SMARTEST GUY EVER.

  • Jen

    Bald men are sexy. They have higher levels of testosterone, more manly, more aggressive. Keep the facial and body hair please.

  • Paul

    From what I can tell, aspirin acts to inhibit one of the enzymes on the synthetic pathway leading to this prostaglandin. Maybe the cure for MPB is as simple as taking a daily aspirin?

  • http://www.selfhypnosishelps.com J Ross Dock Hester, PA-CH

    It’s not the HAIR, Dude…- it’s the chemistry!

  • Bull Shirt

    How can this molecule inhibit hair growth on some parts of the scalp and cause hair growth EVERYWHERE else?

  • Fred

    Jen, let me send you my phone number?

  • Dave C.

    If cavemen were hairy and modern man are less hairy, then isn’t baldness simply a sign of natural evolution and thus bald men are more evolved? That’s what I keep telling myself each morning as I see all that hair on the shower floor :)

  • ericv

    “Prejudice” that bald is bad? What a wimp.

  • Tommy

    Drugs like Alleve are prostaglandin inhibitors. Will they prevent baldness?

  • balding kman

    Prejudice is a part of the human condition.
    “The human mind must think with the aid of categories…Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it”. 1954, Gordon Allport
    If someone is harmed by a dog they can form a prejudice against all dogs.
    Is it rational to paint all dogs as bad? No, however it is partially how humans quickly identify what may harm them or help them.
    Prejudices and preference are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. A lot of prejudice is formed because someone is not part of the preferred group.
    I agree that prejudices that cause undo hardship are not desirable but to wish there were no prejudices is wishing for bad luck and knocking on wood.
    PS. My wife was attracted to me because she has a prejudice for balding men and I have a prejudice for intelligent women. Without our prejudices we may not have found each other.

  • Ganeshan Sivanandhan

    IS there any idea for implementing the medicine to the society..

  • KMac

    HURRY THE (BLANK) UP AND CREATE THE DRUG TO STOP BALDNESS! HURRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!

  • Chad Jacobs

    Why couldn’t someone losing their hair take depo-provera or androcur? They block testosterone production, and testosterone receptors respectively. Granted, it would effect libido, and muscle mass. However, this might be a small price to pay to keep one’s hair. Also, one can always stop the drugs when they want to have kids (sexual activity ect al). Personally, had I known about these drugs as an option when I was a teenager losing my hair I surely would have considered them.

  • TestoDomeGuy

    @Jen pls give me a call. :-)

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