Researchers announced the discovery of a gene which causes a rare form of hair loss, and may eventually be used to treat other types of hair loss.
The new gene, appropriately called hairless, could regulate the human hair cycle, they reported in the journal Science, report on their study of a Pakistani family suffering from Alopecia Universalis, a condition which leaves the affected person with no hair, including no body hair or eyebrows.
“The discovery of this new gene gives us endless possibilities that may allow us to effectively treat hair loss and possibly baldness within the next five years,” said study leader and dermatologist Angela Christiano of New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
“It is now within our reach to design ways to grow hair, remove hair, even dye hair genetically and, best yet, this can all be accomplished topically, reducing possible side-effects.”
“With the hairless gene, the real basis of hair loss can begin to be understood,” Christiano said. “We can now look at the cause — the genes themselves — with the understanding that hormones are important but not primary.”
“Hair follicles, like all cells, have cycles. This finding is the first indication that we may be able to regulate that cycle, triggering the growth of new hair. It may be possible, for instance, to treat hair loss through gene therapy administered topically via the hair follicles.”
Companies have already been developing means to perform gene therapy, although none have yet proven universally successful. The major limitation to date has been the discovery of an actual gene that causes male pattern hair loss.
What is not known and what will not be reported in the media is whether or not this gene may actually lead to a hair loss cure. There are many genes that relate to hair. Alopecia Areata and Universalis are thought to be autoimmune disorders and not related to male pattern hair loss, so it is unknown whether this gene may eventually lead to a cure, but you have to have a first step.