In the News – A Possible Cure for Balding Appears Credibly Close

A lot of press coverage recently about the latest protein (prostaglandin D2 or PGD2) identified that may hopefully bring a cure for male pattern baldness, based on a study published in Science Translational Medicine. We will have to wait out the FDA process and see where this is all going to take us.

The suggestion is that this may be a cure to prevent the balding process, but it does not imply that this can reverse the damage from hair loss in the past. The team of researchers was lead by dermatologist Luis Garza (then of the University of Pennsylvania, now at Johns Hopkins University) and by Penn dermatologist George Cotsarelis. Here are some quotes from articles around the web:

From Bloomberg News

Male-pattern baldness may be caused by a protein in the scalp, according to research that raises the possibility drugs being tested by Merck & Co. (MRK) and Actelion Ltd. (ATLN) for other uses might prevent hair loss. Bald spots had an excessive amount of a protein called prostaglandin D2 or PGD2, according to a study in Science Translational Medicine. Merck’s experimental treatment for facial flushing and Actelion’s allergy compound, both in late- stage studies, block the protein.

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From The Los Angeles Times

The discovery that prostaglandins might be the catalyst that sets baldness in motion, was a surprise to the researchers, who ‘hadn’t thought about prostaglandins in relation to hair loss,’ said Cotsarelis. From there, researchers were able to identify the receptor — the cellular landing dock — for D2, called GPR44. Find a way to block that receptor, or somehow thwart PGD2’s path to it, and, voila! —baldness doesn’t happen. That, say the researchers, will be their next effort — to try topical treatments that block the GPR44 receptor. They hope the same approach might help find treatments that prevent hair thinning in women.

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From MedPage Today

To explore the possible mechanisms, Cotsarelis and colleagues examined scalp tissue from 22 white men ages 40 to 65 who underwent hair transplantation for male pattern baldness. None of the men were taking either of the two approved medications for baldness — minoxidil and finasteride. Through genetic analysis of bald scalp tissue and hair-covered scalp tissue within the same individuals, the researchers discovered that levels of prostaglandin D2 were about three times higher in the bald scalp tissue.

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From HealthDay

Several companies have compounds in development that block the receptor for PGD2. Those compounds are being studied to treat asthma. We think using these compounds topically… could slow down and possibly reverse baldness.

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Tags: hairloss, hair loss, cure, balding, baldness, protein, prostaglandin

23 thoughts on “In the News – A Possible Cure for Balding Appears Credibly Close

  1. This is good news. I can’t wait for some clinical trials to see if this treatment is effective. On the other hand, how many times have we seen this sort of story, of a successful treatment being just around the corner, with regard to serious medical issues such as HIV and so forth. So I’m going to try not to get my hopes up.

  2. While I always hope for the best, I also am not holding my breath. News like this comes along every once in a while and it never seems to pan out. But, as always, thanks for posting, Dr. Rassman!

  3. Same guy who went on the today show four years ago and said wounded skin produces hair…not to sound like a total buzz kill but from my perspective I honestly think this whole discovery is total BS.

  4. so DHT is not the the cause? all this time we thought dht was the cause, and now prostaglandin D2 or PGD2 is the cause.

  5. Interesting that Merck is involved in this. Their patent for finasteride runs out in about a year – I did wonder if they had something else up their sleeve. So finasteride is on the verge of being withdrawn for MPB, whilst they have a new continual use product waiting in the wings, coincidentally at exactly the time their patent runs out.

    But that’s just a conspiracy theory right?

  6. Can’t stop finasteride, unless I want to become a NW4 in 6 months. I’ll wait until the cure goes public before I get off the fin. Long live Merck

  7. DHT could be involved anyway; they haven’t elucidated the full pathway leading to follicular miniaturization. DHT might stimulate the secretion PGD2 (just to make a guess). Indeed it is demonstrated that DHT has something to do, this study doesn’t prove the opposite.

  8. who knows, maybe finasteride reduces the prostaglandin D2 or PGD2 in the scalp saving the hair. Don’t get off finasteride just yet, people.

  9. Pure logic says that DHT is not the main problem. The main problem is that there is something else that makes the DHT harmful to follicles. Are that genes or just that prostate protein, no one can surely tell right now. I mean hairy people have circulating DHT in their bodies too but they do not go bald. DHT(in normal amount) is very useful in our bodies, blocking it for many years will most surely leave some irreversible side effects or at least some strains on the organism. I think that is clear as a day.

  10. by the way, the drug that merck is testing that inhibits pgd2 or whatever its called, is in the last stages, and meck spokesperson has mentioned that it hasn’t done anything in terms of hair benefits. in the side affects hair benefit has not been listed so far.

  11. Again, new half cocked product from Merck. Using side effects from other drugs to “treat” hair loss. That Merck guys are human form of shame for the 21st century medicine. Thank God, USA is not the only country in the world developing solutions.

  12. I read where Aspirin is a prostaglandin D2 antagonist, meaning it blocks the action of PGD2.
    I am wondering if a topically applied Aspirin solution or taking it orally daily would have any benefit??????

    Any opinions??

  13. I agree that Merc must have been sitting on this. Waiting for the likes of Histogen.

    So Eli are you saying that the drug Merc is testing is in phase 3 trials and that while they are not talking it up as a cure for baldness, that it can actually prevent baldness?

  14. I wonder what side effects will people have blocking prostaglandin D2? Something tells me that topical usage will not be good as taking oral pills. If that D2 is in the blood stream it will have to be beaten from the core inside. There is no use in topical rubbing if the blood is “infected”. Any thoughts?

  15. Prostaglandins are often associated with inflammation responses and DHT, as an androgen is also part of the inflammatory response. It wouldnt surprise me to learn that DHT is still one of the root causes when in the presence of genes expressing minituarization through an inflammatory protein response.

    Reducing a particular protein is just a further step in the chain which would allow users to avoid the libido and fat reducing enhancement of DHT conversion without the male pattern baldness.

    DHT blockers are still likely to be around fir prostate issues though so I imagine finasteride is safe on market terms but avoiding prostate problems would be considered more essential by most doctors than preventing a cosmetic issue like hair loss.

    Good news if it pans out. Wait and see though. I wouldn’t worry about the side effect approach to medicine though – half of treatments are discovered by accident.

  16. If every small hair on my head grew to terminal I would have a very low norwood. It’s the only reason I maintain using minoxidil.

    Dr woods recently called it ‘bum fluff’ on hairsite and advocates using neither finasteride or minoxidil, only transplant.

    I didn’t like the side effects from my year on finasteride and transplants are risky without finasteride, so I choose to wait for another solution. I’m not holding my breath though.

  17. I do think the mantra of the transplant industry “come to me when your young” makes for a real vampire industry.

    Think for yourself and carry a stake.

  18. I always have bias against large pharmaceutical companies. For this one, there is no exception. As it said, it is an experimental drug which may take a long time to prove its effectiveness. Just like any other drugs, don’t ignore the side effects. We will soon find out if it really helps with hair loss.

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