Hair can be an important part of our identity, and can also serve as an unwanted reminder that we are getting older. The biggest age-related culprits are balding and graying hair, and scientists are working to reverse both. Here is some of the latest research.
“Vampire treatment” for baldness
Italian and Israeli scientists say they have found a way to restore hair growth on bald patches of head by injecting the area with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This new therapy is sometimes referred to as the “vampire treatment.”
The treatment involves taking blood from the patient and processing it through a machine that removes platelet-rich plasma. The plasma is then injected into the scalp, which stimulates new stem cells under the skin to re-grow hair.
The researchers specifically looked at the effectiveness of the treatment in alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and hair loss. The study involved 45 volunteers with alopecia areata. They were randomly split into three groups; the PRP group, a triamcinolone acetonide (TrA) group and a placebo group. The injection in all three groups was made to only half of the scalp, and it was administered three times over three months.
The scientists found that the group injected with PRP had significant hair re-growth. It also reduced burning and itching compared to the other two groups.
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Possible cure for gray hair
Researchers have found that a new compound, a modified UVB- activated compound called PC-KUS, may reverse the oxidative stress that causes hair to go gray.
Typically oxidative stress causes a buildup of hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles, which eventually blocks the normal production of melanin. But the new compound may actually eliminate the hydrogen peroxide buildup. The research team also said this treatment could be effective in treating vitiligo, which produces patches of white de-pigmentation on the skin.
The team analyzed 2,411 patients with vitiligo, and treated them with the PC-KUS compound. They found that the treatment was able to restore the person’s original pigmentation in their skin and eyelashes.
A new kind of hair dye
Scientists are exploring the use of gold nanoparticles to dye human hair. Researchers synthesized fluorescent gold nanoparticles inside human hair–40,000 to 60,000 can fit across one human hair.
The process involved soaking white hairs in a solution of the gold compound. Researchers then watched as the hair turn from a pale yellow to a deep brown. Viewing the hair with an electron microscope revealed that the particles were forming inside the hair’s central core cortex. Even after repeated washings, the hair remained dark.
Restoring hair cells for hearing
Hair loss is a common problem that arises from aging, but most of us only think about the hairs on the top of our heads. Aging, infections and noise exposure can also contribute to auditory hair cell loss, which leads to hearing impairment. And, unlike birds and fish, once mammals lose those hairs, they do not regenerate them.
But, researchers may have found a way to regenerate those hairs using a drug that stimulates cells in the same area to become new hair cells. Researchers applied the drug to the cochlea of deaf mice, and that inhibited a signal from a protein on the surface of the cells that surrounds the hair cells. These supporting cells turned into new hair cells when treated with the drug. The mice had a partial recovery of hearing after being treated.
[SLIDESHOW: 6 Ways to Treat Male Baldness]
Baldness linked to heart disease
As if balding wasn’t bad enough, certain types of balding may be linked to an increased risk for coronary heart disease - particularly balding on the top or crown of the head, but not in the front, or receding hairline.
Researchers analyzed data from six previous studies that looked at male-pattern baldness and heart disease. Three of these studies found that the severity of baldness on the crown of the head indicated the risk of heart disease. They found that extensive crown baldness increased the risk by 48 percent, moderate baldness increased risk by 36 percent and mild baldness increased risk by 18 percent. They also found that men with both frontal and crown baldness were 69 percent more likely to have heart disease compared to men with a full head of hair.
The scientists say the link may be due to the possibility that baldness indicates insulin resistance, a state of chronic inflammation, or increased sensitivity to testosterone, which all are involved in cardiovascular health.
Nordqvist, C. (2013, May 6). “Vampire Treatment For Baldness.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/260122.php
Nordqvist, C. (2013, May 5). “Cure For Gray Hair And Vitiligo Found.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/260089.php
American Chemical Society (2012, December 5). First synthesis of gold nanoparticles inside human hair for dyeing and much more. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121205121157.htm
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (2013, January 9). Sensory hair cells regenerated, hearing restored in noise-damaged mammal ear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130109124201.htm
BMJ-British Medical Journal (2013, April 3). Baldness linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130403200156.htm