Male pattern baldness affects millions of men. It’s estimated that 42% of men under 50 have moderate to extensive baldness, rising to 80% by the age of 70 [1-2].
Lots of male hair loss treatments are now available for male androgenetic alopecia. But despite plenty of ongoing research, there’s still no baldness cure.
In this article, we’ll explore why there’s no cure for baldness yet, as well as the latest developments in hair loss research to determine when a baldness cure might be on the horizon.
It’s difficult to find a cure for baldness because there are so many factors in play. One study found that more than 200 genetic elements contribute to pattern balding — and that’s before we even think about environmental and hormonal factors .
Key contributors to male pattern baldness include:
Male pattern baldness is a complex condition. According to researchers, 79% of male baldness is hereditary and caused by so-called baldness genes . This leaves 21% of cases where the cause is due to “nonshared environmental effects”. As a result, it’s hard to find a cure that addresses every contributing factor to permanently prevent progressive balding.
That said, researchers are continuously investigating hair loss to better understand the condition.
No developments suggest a baldness cure is on the cards any time soon. But some scientific discoveries could help other researchers unlock one in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the latest developments.
In January 2023, various UK news outlets reported that a baldness cure could be on the way following research that revealed humans’ so-called “caveman genes”. In this study, researchers discovered several genes that might explain how humans ultimately ended up becoming hairless, unlike most mammals .
It’s a bit of a leap to suggest this paves the way for a baldness cure. The research in question doesn’t attempt to find or test a cure for hair loss. But this study helps us better understand the evolutionary impact on human hair, which may ultimately prove useful for finding a baldness cure in future.
Stem cell therapy may eventually unlock the key to a hair loss cure . These adaptable cells help the body regenerate or repair itself after injury by transforming into the required cell type, or dividing to produce more stem cells.
Hair follicles, meanwhile, are the only cells in the human body that actively regenerate, regardless of injury or damage. Stem cell researcher Qixuan Wang explains the link between hair follicles and stem cells:
“Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir. When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cells and develop into a new follicle.”
Research published in June 2022 showed that a single protein — TGF-beta — has a role in both follicle development and follicle death . If future research can pinpoint how this protein activates cell division, it may be possible to artificially activate follicle stem cells to tackle baldness.
An animal study published in December 2021 found that removing the adrenal glands in mice caused hair growth to improve threefold .
The adrenal glands produce cortisol when you’re stressed. Cortisol suppresses an essential hair growth protein known as Gas6. Removing the adrenal glands limits cortisol release, allowing Gas6 to activate hair growth.
Human adrenal gland removal isn’t on the cards. Your adrenal glands produce vital hormones that regulate metabolism and the immune system, among other essential bodily functions. But this research is important as it indicates a link between chronic stress and hair loss.
“Our work identifies corticosterone as a systemic inhibitor of hair follicle stem cell activity [and] demonstrates that the removal of such inhibition drives hair follicle stem cells into frequent regeneration cycles, with no observable defects in the long-term.”
If we can find another way to reduce the impact of cortisol on the hair follicle, we may be able to cure stress-related baldness.
In a 2020 study, researchers used a gene editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 to modify the genes that cause hair loss . Tiny ultrasound-activated particles carry CRISPR/Cas9 proteins to the site, where they modify the genes to prevent hair loss.
These results are promising, but this technology has only been tested on animals so far. There are also lots of ethical questions raised by gene editing practices, so a publicly available service is still a long way off.
In 2019, researchers in Japan proposed a new method for generating “hair beads” — a type of collagen-enriched cell aggregate (multiple cells of the same type that have bonded together) . Hair beads can be transplanted into bald patches to regenerate lost hair cells.
They demonstrated that creating hair beads could be scalable — an important factor for cost-effectiveness and high demand. While this technology hasn’t been tested on humans yet, it paves the way for further investigation.
It’s unlikely there will be a cure for baldness any time soon. While scientists continue to conduct invaluable research that helps us better understand the condition, there aren’t yet any groundbreaking inroads towards a permanent cure.
Even when a cure has been touted, it’s likely to undergo several years of testing before it’s approved for widespread public use. Medical authorities need to understand the long-term effectiveness and analyse any adverse effects before licensing a baldness cure.
A baldness cure may not be around the corner, but there are already lots of treatments that are proven to help tackle male pattern baldness. They can’t stop baldness at the source, but they can slow and even reverse hair loss.
Here are some of the most popular baldness treatments.
Finasteride stops your body converting testosterone into DHT. It doesn’t desensitise your follicles to DHT, but it means there’s a lot less of the hormone reaching your follicles. It’s currently the most recommended treatment among hair transplant practitioners worldwide .
Minoxidil dilates the blood vessels around your balding areas, stimulating blood flow to the follicles. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the follicles, which are essential for healthy hair growth.
Dutasteride works in a similar way to Finasteride, and is actually more effective . So if you don’t see results with Finasteride, Dutasteride may be the next option to try.
Ketoconazole is an anti-inflammatory, antifungal medication found in shampoos like Nizoral. It’s been shown to increase hair density in people experiencing male pattern baldness .
Certain products containing caffeine can treat pattern baldness effectively, including some caffeine shampoos for hair loss [16-17]. You’ll need to use this shampoo regularly over several months to see the effects.
There’s no cure for baldness at the moment — but there is a fix. Hair transplants are the most effective way to get permanent coverage across your scalp.
Both FUE and FUT transplants work by removing follicles from the back of your head and implanting them in your balding areas. These follicles aren’t sensitive to DHT, so they won’t fall out.
Our team is on hand to find the best hair loss treatment for you, whether it’s Finasteride, a hair transplant, or a combination of multiple treatments. We also specialise in female hair loss treatment. Book a free consultation at the Wimpole Clinic to get started.
Simply fill in your details in the form below and we'll get in touch with you shortly.