While you've probably heard of the expensive treatments likes Rogaine and Propecia, the latest hair loss remedy is so simple it's silly: Vitamin D. This basic nutrient is all the rage in baldness research, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal. Unlike the products currently on the market, innovative new treatments targeting vitamin D receptors have the ability to help people who are already bald regrow their hair.
To figure out the cure for baldness, obviously, the first step is to figure out the cause. Scientists are pretty sure they've got this part of the equation down. Essentially, every hair follicle on your head produces a hair every two to six years and then lies dormant for a few weeks or months. For those who suffer from baldness, these follicles simply stop waking up over time. Then, a breakdown in communication stops new skin cells from becoming follicles -- they become regular skin cells instead. The key to switching these cells back in the right direction are those vitamin D receptors, and so baldness researchers have been focusing all of their energy in this direction.
The success of hair growth experiments has been on the uptick lately. One team of researchers at the University of San Francisco recently discovered a molecule called MED that suppresses the vitamin D receptors from producing hair and found that mice grew more hair if they blocked MED. Another team at Harvard Medical School found a different molecule that actually activates the vitamin D receptor, though they haven't found a way to actually produce hair with it. Perhaps most promising is a team of Japanese researchers who added vitamin D to stem cells in their final phases of growth and successfully coaxed these cells into becoming hair follicles.
Don't get all excited and go buy a boatload of vitamin D, though. The advances in research have less to do with the presence of the nutrient that it does with how your body uses it. That said, most Americans don't get enough vitamin D, and the stuff is actually really good for you. So, heck, go ahead and buy a boatload of vitamin D. And if you happen to start growing a ton of hair, do drop a note to your local dermatologist. Given the fact that an estimated 35 million men suffer from baldness, the cure is going to be worth a ton of money.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.