Study suggests key for treating male baldness

March 28, 2012

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have found a key to treating androgenetic alopecia (AGA), better known as male pattern baldness.

Study suggests key for treating male baldness

Philadelphia - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania may have found a key to treating androgenetic alopecia (AGA), better known as male pattern baldness.

In a study involving cultured human hair follicles and mice, a team led by George Cotsarelis, M.D., examined scalp tissue from 22 white males, ages 40 to 65, who had undergone hair transplantation for male pattern baldness. None were taking minoxidil or finasteride, the two approved medications for baldness.

MedPage Today reports that the researchers did genetic analysis of bald scalp tissue and hair-covered scalp tissue from the same individuals and found that levels of prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) were about three times higher in the bald scalp tissue. When investigators applied prostaglandin D2 and one of its derivatives, 15-dPGJ2, topically to mice and lab-grown human hair follicles, hair growth was slowed or completely inhibited - an effect mediated through a specific receptor called GPR44, which could be a possible therapeutic target.

“These results define PGD2 as an inhibitor of hair growth in AGA and suggest the PGD2-GPR44 pathway as a potential target for treatment,” the authors wrote in the study abstract, noting that drugs that block the GPR44 receptor are already in development for other conditions and could be made into topical formulations.

The authors also noted that questions remain as to whether blocking the GPR44 receptor would allow regrowth after balding or prevent balding in the first place, and whether inhibiting the receptor would have any effect in humans.

The study appears in the March 21 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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