Naomi Campbell, supermodel extraordinaire, was caught with a receding hairline earlier this year. Reportedly caused by traction alopecia, where the use of extensions can lead to a hair loss, Campbell demonstrated what a lifetime of covering up her naturally curly hair can lead to. And in a world where celebrity hairstyles represent a revolving door, Campbell is not alone. Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Aniston, and Britney Spears have all been reported to sport the occasional bald patch, and even tight hairstyles such as ponytails or braids can lead to traction alopecia with sustained use.
For all of these individuals, a new study by Wang and Millon, et al. in PloS One may provide hope. The authors initially set out to study the stress pathway controlled by corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) in mice over-expressing CRF, who displayed characteristic hairlessness. When they injected the mice with a CRF-receptor antagonist (effectively blocking the effect of CRF over-expression), they were surprised months later to find that all of the mice suddenly had developed full heads and backs of hair. And upon further investigation, it appeared that only one series of treatments with the CRF-receptor antagonist were needed to sustain this miraculous hair growth, in comparison to the current treatments for hair loss that require persistent use and only modest gains.
The authors, of course, caution against the application of this study without further investigation. The mechanisms of hair growth between mice and human is not well-characterized and the effect of CRF antagonists may be applicable only to stress-related hair loss but not so to genetic baldness.
For now, though, we may just want to avoid hair extensions and tight ponytails.
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