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END OF BALDNESS; Scientists discover way to grow back full head of hair.

Byline: By MIKE SWAIN, Science Editor

AFTER years of quackery and bizarre treatments, scientists believe they have finally found the key to curing baldness.

Modern drug therapies can sometimes slow or stop the advance of hair loss, and transplants can cover up the effects.

But it has been accepted medical fact that once hair falls out of a follicle it is gone for good.

Now, in a major breakthrough with experiments on mice, Prof George Cotsarelis and his team at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found entirely new follicles can be regrown, from which fresh hair sprouts.

In the search for a cure men - and women - have desperately tried all kinds of weird and wonderful remedies.

The ancient Greeks used pigeon droppings, cumin, horseradish and beetroot, while the ancient Egyptian treatment included toes of a dog and hoof of an ass.

Almost all men suffer some baldness by the time they reach 60 and almost a third are quite bald by the age of 30.

While hair loss is usually less severe among women it is often more distressing. Writing in respected journal Nature, Prof Cotsarelis said when hair follicles were cut off the backs of mice, a gene called Wnt helped them to regrow as the wound healed.

They found that adding more Wnt proteins doubled the amount of hair growth.

Prof Cotsarelis said: "Wnts allow the skin to heal in a way that has less scarring and includes all the normal structures of skin, such as hair follicles."

Dr Denis Headon, of the University of Manchester, said: "Up to now we thought the number of hair follicles we have is set before we were born. The implication from this work is that it might be simpler than we thought to make new hair follicles as a treatment for hair loss."

The research could also find new ways of healing wounds without scarring and treatments for conditions such as acne.

Doctors will not be slicing off the skin on heads to help grow new locks. They hope to develop a drug. But hold on to your hats - that will take at least 10 years.

m.swain@mirror.co.uk

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HAIR HOPE: Bald heads could be on the way out
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 17, 2007
Words:374
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