Scientist Say There's Hope For a Cure For Baldness
Dr Evil, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Jean-Luc Picard, your mate Dave down at the pub - they probably all wish they had hair. Well, good news, a cure for baldness could be as close as 2019.
According to a new study, a chemical designed to mimic the smell of sandalwood also has the power to stimulate hair growth in humans. You don't get that with your supermarket own brand body spray.
Without getting too many hopes up - or hairs stood on end - the research was only undertaken using scalp tissue in a laboratory, but the scientists behind it say they could be right on the brink of a breakthrough.
A trial is already under way to see how the product works and with human volunteers and the team behind it say they are "not far" from making the transition from their science lab to the baldness clinic.
Professor Ralf Paus, a scientist at the University of Manchester who led the research, told The Independent: "This is actually a rather amazing finding.
"This is the first time ever that it has been shown that the remodelling of a normal human mini-organ [a hair] can be regulated by a simple, cosmetically widely-used odorant."
This is where it gets complicated. In order to achieve the desired results, the scientists managed to tap into an ancient chemical pathway found in hair follicles that allowed them to both slow down the death of the structures and promote their growth.
The scientist did this using the unlike substance, Sandalore. This is a chemical produced to recreate the smell of sandalwood and you often find it used in perfumes and soaps.
Smell is a sensation triggered when molecules of "odorant" chemicals are recognised by special cells in the nose but the processes underpinning this phenomenon are not confined to the nasal passages.
The same chemical pathways help regulate a range of other cell functions in the body, including hair growth - which is where a synthetic sandalwood substance becomes an interesting player in the cure for baldness.
They found that by applying their synthetic sandalwood odorant to scalp tissue they could both increase hair growth and decrease cell death.
As documented in their Nature Communications paper, this evidence was enough to give the study "substantial, clinically relevant functional hair growth effects."
Intriguingly, the results suggest that human hair follicles can "smell", in the sense that they make use of ancient smell receptors to control key functions such as growth.
Millions of men and women suffer from hair loss and a demand for a cure or prevention is as high as that for teens looking for an acne cure.
So far studies and research in to a baldness cure over the years have been unsuccessful or not made it out of the lab.
According to Professor Paus, however, his latest discovery is "not far at all" from being applied in a clinical context for hair loss.
He said: "Sandalore is already offered as a cosmetic product in Italy by the company that has co-sponsored the current study.
"A very small, short and preliminary clinical pilot study performed by an independent CRO [contract research organisation] in 20 female volunteers with topical Sandalore has already suggested a reduction of daily hair loss."
With a larger scale of research to work with and professionally controlled clinical trials currently under way, scientists hope to see results as early as the beginning of 2019.
Featured Image Credit: Austin Powers