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The Takeaway: A Cure for Hair Loss? Study Finds Baldness Protein

Could Baldness Protein Be Inhibited With Drugs? Male-pattern baldness could be caused by too much of a certain protein in the scalp, according to a new study published in  Science Translational Medicine. Bald spots showed too much of a protein called prostaglandin D2 or PGD 2. Knowing this could help pharmaceutical companies develop drugs that prevent hair loss-something the researchers say eight out of 10 white men experience before the age of 70.

Drugmakers such as Merck and Actelion Ltd. have been working on drugs for other issues (Merck's an experimental treatment for facial flushing, Actelion's an allergy compound) that also block the D2 protein. Both are in late-stage studies.

Men may be able to regrow all their hair if the inhibiting protein is removed, said George Cotsarelis, chairman of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Cotsarelis notes that stem cells that create hair still exist in bald men.

The follicles are also there, though they look smaller and produce thinner, shorter hair. Over time, the hair is so short it no longer passes the surface of the skin.

But neither Merck nor Actelion are currently testing their drugs as a cure for hair loss, yet. Interestingly, the role prostaglandin proteins play in hair growth was first suggested by Latisse, a drug developed for glaucoma that doctors discovered could make eyelashes grow super long. Latisse is an artificial version of a prostaglandin protein.

Friday Quick Hits: 

  • And Vice President Joe Biden is visiting a retirement village in Florida today to talk about Medicare and Social Security. "There's no question that the aging of the Baby Boomers puts new pressures on Medicare and Social Security," Biden plans to say, according to USA Today. "The question is: are we going to strengthen and sustain these programs, now and for the future?"

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