For as long as men have worried about receding hairlines, we've searched for a cure -- but why is it so hard to find?
We recently reported that researchers at Columbia University may have stumbled upon a breakthrough that could be the first real step to curing baldness and hair loss — but why is it taking so long for scientists to figure out this vexing problem?
By combining the drugs ruxolitinib and tofacitinib, which are used to treat blood diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, scientists were able to block a family of enzymes that kept hair follicles from growing new hairs. The findings have only been shown in tests on mice, but it’s an exciting new step that could lead to treatment on humans — although it may take a while before it reaches that point.
So why has it taken so long to solve a problem that could lead to huge revenues for pharmaceutical companies?
So why is it so hard to cure baldness? An estimated 50 million men in the United States suffer from some form of hair loss, and half of men by age 50 will experience hair loss, according to a CBS Local report.
And it’s not just men: one in four women are also likely to experience some hair loss, making this a problem that spans genders, which explains why hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on research.
It’s a common saying: “We can put a man on the moon but we can’t cure male-pattern baldness.” So why is this such a huge technical challenge?
It’s because scientists haven’t been able to identify the gene that causes baldness, which is believed to be the main cause. One gene was discovered back in 2009, but targeting that gene hasn’t produced much in the way of results.
A total of $3 billion is spent each year by Americans seeking to fix their hair loss problems, so it’s certainly a very lucrative market if someone can stumble upon the answer. If this latest study is correct, perhaps the answer isn’t as far away as we thought.