Hair loss is a timeless, ubiquitous challenge that humanity has been railing against since time immemorial. Little wonder that there are so many old wives tales associated with it, but which of them have a basis in truth?
My nan had a limitless supply of intel she had received, presumably as a child before the war. Some of it, in hindsight and with the benefit of an education she never received, made some sense… her approach to food hygiene was guided by the belief that a little bit of dirt was good for you, something that has been borne out by research into why so many of us are developing allergies. Some of her tips were less useful, like not opening umbrellas indoors or putting shoes on a table. She also had a deep mistrust of electricity and would make us remove every plug from every socket in the house during a thunderstorm… even as an 11-year old I knew there was no need to abandon Dr. Who mid-episode because there was lightning outside. But there was no telling her.
To be fair, my nan never had anything to say about hair loss, it just didn’t come up. If she had she might have shared any of the hair loss “knowledge” that we all grew up with, before the days of deep science investigating the subject. You get your hair from your grandfather was a popular and persistent theory, which almost certainly stood up to scrutiny in lots of cases. It is, of course, rooted, in genetics and the fact that we receive a blend of genes from our parents that will dictate our hair loss future. So looking at Grandad, or Grandma is a place to start but far from the whole story as we understand it now.
It’s In The Genes
While there might be value in knowing our hair loss future, it is not the same thing as being able to do anything about it. Just the same, science has now delivered some explanations for much of the hair loss we experience.
Dutch researchers established that a variation in a particular gene, called an androgen receptor (AR), is a culprit. The hormone it produces, androgen, increases with age and leads to frail hair and impaired follicle growth.
Results published earlier this year by a team in Germany showed that another gene, LSS, which governs how the body metabolizes cholesterol can suffer from a variation which triggers a condition called hypotrichosis.
Another gene, APCDD1, is of particular interest to those working on hair loss for women. It causes hair follicles to shrink in a process called miniaturization, which in turn leads to thin and frail. This is, of course, the type of hair loss experienced by women where the hair becomes thin rather than disappearing completely.
Hair Loss For Women
While none of these insights have actually translated into a meaningful treatment, it is encouraging to see that our understanding is advancing rapidly.
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