A Cure for Baldness? Scientists Find Protein That Blocks Hair Loss

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Could balding be prevented or even cured? South Korean scientists say they have found what they believe could be the next big step in preventing human baldness, and even growing hair back.

The scientists at Choi Kang-yeol of Yonsei University in Seoul discovered that when a certain protein, CXXC5, binds to another protein called "Dishevelled," the combination restricts hair growth and wound regeneration.

In their study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, they showed that they could prevent CXXC5 from binding to Dishevelled by adding a specially devised biochemical agent that blocks CXXC5. Without the binding between CXXC5 and Dishevelled, mice did not lose their hair, and bald mice even grew it back.

The biochemical agent, called PTD-DMB, is a peptide, or a short chain of amino acids, which the scientists applied to the skin of bald mice for 28 days. They also tried using valproic acid, which is a short chain of fatty acids, alongside the PTD-DMB. In both cases, the mice regrew their hair after having lost it, according to International Business Times.

The American Hair Loss Association states that 95 percent of cases of hair loss in men is caused by male-pattern baldness. While women experience baldness as well, testosterone is an important factor in hair loss. Dihydrotestosterone, which is released as testosterone breaks down, causes hair follicles to shrink, making it harder for hair to remain on your head. People also lose their hair faster if they have a genetic predisposition to baldness, or if they are stressed, smoke, and have poor eating and sleeping habits.

There are several ways that people treat baldness today, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Several drugs have been developed to stimulate hair growth, and hair transplants are a surgical option.

However, the remedy still has a long way to go before it could be available for human use. It has not been tested in humans, nor do researchers know whether or not there are side effects. According to the news site Business Korea, scientists are currently testing to determine if it's toxic or not.

The scientists hope that the research, which was funded by the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology, could lead to treatments that could prevent balding, or possibly even improve wound healing.