Thursday, February 24, 2011

Baldness and Wnt Gene

Gene Therapy Male Pattern Baldness

Hair loss affects millions of Americans and there seem to several remedies being offered to people ranging from drugs to vitamin supplements to wigs to hair pieces to topical creams to surgery. Because hair loss, especially male pattern baldness has no cure and people are vain about how they look, there are several scam artists making a fast buck.

However, scientists are working hard to find a cure for male pattern baldness and one research group at the University of Pennsylvania has many people excited because they are working on gene therapy for male pattern baldness.

Scientists believe that hair follicles develop in the womb and no new follicles are formed after birth. On an average, a person has around 100,000 hair follicles. In addition, follicles are limited in their ability to regenerate. However, the scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have managed to regenerate hair follicles in mice by manipulating a gene called Wnt. This gene is involved in healing of wounds and can be used to produce new hair follicles. The experiment conducted by the scientists shows that once the wound heals, new hair follicles can develop and the process can be manipulated to increase the number of follicles

When the Wnt gene was blocked, no hair follicles grew in the experiment. However, when the gene was not blocked, new follicles grew which behaved normally producing hair in the same way as other follicles. This clearly proves that gene therapy can be used to treat male pattern baldness, which is also a genetic predisposition. However, it will be a few years before gene therapy can be adopted commercially to help people suffering from baldness.