Scientists at Harvard University hope that the findings from their new study will lead to a cure for baldness.
The study consisted of a series of experiments using mice and the main finding was that the long-term effects of stress led to induced hair loss in the mice.
In the mice, it was found that corticosterone, a stress hormone, would prevent and supress the GAS6 protein which encourages the growth of new hair follicle stem cells.
The study therefore proved a direct link between stress and hair loss. The scientists then removed stress hormones from the mice by removing the adrenal glands that produce them.
The senior author of the study, Ya-Chieh Hsu told Technology Networks, “The real surprise came when we depleted stress hormones. Under normal conditions, hair follicle regeneration slows over time – the resting phase becomes longer as the animals age.
“But when we removed the stress hormones under unstressed normal conditions, the stem cells’ resting phase became extremely short and the mice constantly entered the growth phase to regenerate new hair follicles and hairs throughout their life, even when they were old.”
The study therefore suggests that scientists could try replicating a similar trial in humans. By reducing stress, hair loss could be fixed.
Professor Rui Yi, of Northwestern University, in Chicago, said, “These exciting findings establish a foundation for exploring treatments of hair loss caused by chronic stress.
“Modern life for humans is inevitably stressful. But perhaps, one day, it will prove possible to combat the negative impact of chronic stress on our hair, at least — by adding some GAS6.”
Statistics show that two-thirds of all men will experience male pattern baldness at some point in their lives.
Current treatments include minoxidil creams, anti-androgen therapy and hair transport surgery.