Jan. 6, 2011 -- There is new research supporting the hopes of 50 million American men: they might be able to get their hair back. The secret to a baldness breakthrough just might be hidden in the scalp.
Researchers originally thought that men who were balding must have fewer of the necessary stem cells that produce hair. They were stunned to learn that the number of cells in bald men was actually the same as in men with full heads of hair.
"We were surprised to find a totally normal number of stem cells in the hair follicles in the bald scalp," Dr. George Cotsarelis, the chairman of the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania said. "So this raised hope to people that we can come up with a way of activating these stem cells."
Scientists say, with those stem cells in the scalp already, all that needs to happen is to get those cells to produce the secondary cells that produce hair.
Stem cells produce progenitor cells, or so-called workhouse cells.
"If we figure out a way to wake up those stem cells, get them to make hair for progenitor cells, that would go a long way toward developing a treatment," Dr Cotsarelis told ABC News.
Researchers predict they'll be able to do that within a decade. But until then, millions of customers will be left waiting, and spending.
An estimated $3.5 billion is already spent on hopes for new hair such as Rogaine and Hair Club for Men.
This is no surprise, considering a man has a 50 percent chance of experiencing hair loss by his 50th birthday.
Bald Is Beautiful?
However, some men are comfortable sporting their bald heads, and would rather not front the costs of new hair products.
"It will cost me more money," said a man interviewed by ABC News. "I like my hair like it is."
He was so prideful of his bald style that he said if he could chose any celebrity's hair to be his own, he would pick Yul Brynner who is of course also bald.
Hair loss affects American women significantly less than it does American men, with only 20 million women suffering from it. This study only involved male hair loss, but sometime in the future scientists hope it could work for women as well.