WEDNESDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Men worried about encroaching baldness, take heart: A genetic analysis of tissue taken from both bald and hairier spots on men's scalps has identified a protein involved in male pattern hair loss.
The researchers note that drugs that inhibit the protein are already in development, and it's possible those drugs could one day be used to help men preserve their head of hair.
In the study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania did an analysis of more than 25,000 genes and honed in on one that produces an enzyme that produces a protein known as PGD2. That protein is present in much higher levels in bald spots.
When scientists placed PGD2 on hair follicles in a petri dish, they found the protein inhibited hair growth.
Researchers then tested the protein on mice genetically engineered to lack a receptor for PGD2, and found that hair growth was unaffected. But when PGD2 was applied to mice that have a different receptor (GPR44), the mice grew less hair.
PGD2 is a type of prostaglandin, or a hormone-like substance known to be involved in many body functions, including regulating the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle tissue. Drugs that inhibit PGD2, for example, are being studied for use in preventing airway constriction in asthma.
"Several companies have compounds in development that block the receptor for PGD2. Those compounds are being studied to treat asthma," said senior study author Dr. George Cotsarelis, chair and professor of dermatology at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "We think using these compounds topically . . . could slow down and possibly reverse baldness."
The study is published in the March 21 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
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