In a second recent report announcing a factor contributing to baldness, a dermatologist reports that a common mite is implicated in all cases of human hairloss.
Dr. William Regelson, an expert with the Medical College of Virginia, told an annual meeting of dermatologists in Miami that while the mite has been known since the 1840s to cause mange in animals, until now no one had noticed that the minute organism is invariably present in the hair follicles of human beings who are losing their hair.
Called Demodex follicularum, as many as a dozen of the mites burrow head-down in every hair follicle of the person affected. There they live on sebum, the oily material the scalp secretes.
The first uninvited guests arrive during a person’s adolescence, Regelson told United Press International, and by late middle age all people harbor them. The difference between people who eventually lose their hair and those who do not, however, likely depends on whether the scalp produces an inflammatory reaction in an attempt to reject the mite, he speculates.
Whether or not that reaction occurs, in turn, may depend on a gene that codes for it, he says. The gene in question, Regelson says, is very possibly the “hairless gene” announced Thursday by doctors at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York as the first human gene linked to baldness.
The mite was discovered in human hair by a researcher at Nioxin, a major hair-care and cosmetics developer based in Lithium Springs, Ga. This was accomplished thanks to a newly available hand-held microscope that can magnify live scalp up 1,000 times.
Scientists at the company are now working on a technique to control the mites by developing a chemical that would interrupt their capacity to digest the oils in sebum.