Baldness Similar to Animal Shedding Coat

An animal shedding its coat at certain points of the year may involve the same science behind male-pattern baldness.

New research out of the University of Southern California found that not only is hair loss caused by the hormones in the hair follicles themselves, but also in the tissue surrounding the follicles. That is similar to animals that shed their coats, a routine occurrence triggered by the animals' bodies.

"The hair-follicle stem cell is not only listening to the voice in the stem cell, but also from the outside," Cheng-Ming Chuong of University of Southern California and lead author of the study told MyHealthNewsDaily Wednesday at the meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in Denver.

The research suggests that new treatment should focus on the tissue around the hair follicles instead of just the follicles themselves.

Stem cell treatment has been at the forefront of baldness breakthroughs, and in January, researchers found that the potential secret to success was in the stem cells in the scalp. To produce more hair, scientists needed to get those cells to produce secondary cells that are responsible for growing  hair.

Baldness affects more than 50 million Americans. While some men ( and women) feel comfortable rocking a bald head, many more seek alternative remedies to curb their hair loss. An estimated $3.5 billion per year is spent on hair growth products like Rogaine. There are two treatments, known as finasteride and Minoxidil, that slow the hair-loss process, or people can opt for hair transplant surgery.

But Chuong suggested that the hair loss treatment focus should shift to a broader view.

"To deal with the hair growth, you not only try to help the stem cell [in the follicle], but you can improve the 'soil,' like: You put a tulip bulb in a nicer soil, you will grow a nicer hair," said Chuong.

Baldness is different than alopecia areata, a condition that can come on suddenly and causes hair loss in some or all parts of the body. While steroid injections have shown some success in treating certain sites of the hair loss, there also have been limited proven treatments for alopecia areata patients.