Grabbed the evil at its roots

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Grabbed the evil at its roots
Grabbed the evil at its roots

Grabbed the evil at the root

Hair loss is a phenomenon that is often difficult for those affected to bear. For those suffering from disease-related hairlessness, help may be on the way. An international team of researchers has managed to get to the bottom of the "genetic" root of the problem. Few women like to see the first gray hairs appear. But you can - if you want - hide this sign of aging with cosmetic products. It's more difficult for men: When baldness begins to form, there are few ways to hide it.

Wasim Ahmad of Columbia University, New York, and his colleagues from the US, Pakistan and the UK presented their research in people with complete hair loss in Science, January 30.

The impetus came from "hairless" mice. These have been used as experimental animals in dermatological research for almost 50 years. The scientists found similarities between these mice and a rare genetic disease in humans called alopecia universalis, which is associated with loss of hair all over the body.

Since it is known which gene is responsible for the loss of hair in the mice, their genetic material was compared with that of the diseased humans. The researchers came across a gene that they appropriately named hairless. In mutated form it causes alopecia universalis.

For other, more widespread forms of alopecia, however, there is still no genetic trace. They include androgenetic alopecia (baldness), which scientists say affects around 80 percent of all men. But the search has already begun. Ahmad and his colleagues hope that in just a few years it will be possible to develop medication that will prevent baldness and other forms of hair loss.

One of the problems on the way to a society without bald heads is already foreseeable: the hairless gene is active not only in the scalp but also in the brain. So it cannot be ruled out that a pharmacological correction to the hairless gene or its protein products could “hit the brain” directly. Then the question arises, is beauty really everything…

The Heidelberger Verlag Spektrum der Wissenschaft is the operator of this portal. Its online and print magazines, including "Spektrum der Wissenschaft", "Gehirn&Geist" and "Spektrum – Die Woche", report on current research findings.

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