More than half of American men experience hair loss after they turn 50, but now Japanese scientists have found that vitamin D could be a possible baldness cure. NBC's Craig Melvin reports.
There’s no pill or cream to cure baldness yet, but researchers may be getting closer.
Scientists have discovered that vitamin D seems to awaken the receptors in the hair follicles that shut down in hair loss, giving doctors hope that there could some day be a cure.
“It’s how the vitamin D is being handled by the receptors in the follicles that may be part of the puzzle of why we begin to lose our hair as we get older,” Dr. Marc Avram, a professor of dermatology at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College, told TODAY. “In the next few years, we will have many other options that ultimately one day will make hair loss a voluntary thing.”
Today, more than half of men over age 50 suffer from hair loss. And while notable actors and athletes have embraced the bald look in recent years, not everyone loves their “chrome dome.”
Doctors perform more than 100,000 hair replacement operations a year, at an average cost of between $8,000 and $12,000.
"What I see in my patients is when we can restore the hair, not only does it make them feel better about themselves but it restores their self-confidence,” Dr. Marc Dauer, a hair transplant specialist in Los Angeles. “This research that we've come up with is fantastic news for us.”
Dr. Susan Taylor, a dermatologist, told TODAY that baldness can occur when the hair’s sleep phase, which is only supposed to last weeks or months, becomes permanent as the follicle goes to sleep for good.
Scientists have found that vitamin D is the key that fits into the lock of the follicle receptor, said Taylor. “That seems to cause hair to grow and can help generate stem cells, cells that can turn into follicles,” she told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.
While drugs like Propecia and Rogaine prevent further hair loss, Taylor said the hope is that new treatments will turn the receptors on and allow hair to grow again on a bald scalp.
That led Lauer to inquire if men will soon be using a vitamin D ointment or taking a pill, but Taylor said it’s too early too know. And once a treatment is available, Lauer wondered how quickly the results will come.
“There are a lot of bald men out there who want their hair back,” Lauer noted. “Are we suggesting that at one point you’re going to get this vitamin D into your system and those hair follicles are going to be turned on immediately again?" he added.
“Are you just going to start sprouting hair?” Lauer wondered. “Is this going to take months, years?” But again, Taylor told him, it’s too soon to tell.
“We hope this is going to be a potential cure but there’s much work that needs to be done to translate what we’ve learned in the lab to humans,” Taylor said.
Men shouldn't just start popping vitamin D pills. Too much vitamin D can cause calcium to build up in the body, causing an abnormal heart rhythm, kidney stones, nausea and constipation.
Lauer ended with what he called a “fun fact for our friends without hair.”
“You lose about 100 hairs from your scalp every single day, which means that in about 2 1/2 weeks, I’m Mr. Clean," he lamented.
Some of Hollywood's toughest leading men sport shaved heads.
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