Good Question: Why Is It So Hard To Cure Baldness?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV 

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than 50 million American men suffer from hair loss and baldness. One in two by the age of 50 will experience hair loss, as will one in four women. Hundreds of millions of dollars is spent every year on research. So why is it so hard to cure baldness?

To understand the challenge, you have to understand the cause of baldness, said Vern Cole, founder and president of the Hair Restoration Institute of Minnesota.

“It’s genetics, good old-fashioned genetics,” said Cole.

But scientists have had a hard time pinpointing the precise gene that causes baldness. Scientists found one gene in 2009, but they’ve had a hard time getting results with various therapies targeted to that gene.

“A lot of money is being spent in R & D,” said Cole.

Researchers are looking at two sides of baldness: How do we prevent it? And How do we regrow hair after a follicle has died?

According to some market research, Americans spend more than $3 billion a year attacking hair loss – on surgeries, medicines and hairpieces.

At Cole’s practice, a medical doctor transplants living hair follicles into areas where a patient is balding.

“This is permanent hair, genetically programmed to never fall out,” said Cole, pointing to a donor area just above the neckline.

Why does that hair stick around?

“That’s a great question,” he responded.

Hair is a complex system of cells and hormones. It turns grey – or it doesn’t. It grows – or it falls out.

Scientists do know that the trigger for baldness is a hormone called DHT – Dihidrotestosterone. They just don’t know why it’s triggered.

“There’s this genetic tendency to store too much testosterone. It grabs onto the follicle, shrinks it, robs it of the blood supply,” said Cole, “thus the hair becomes thinner, finer, weaker, until it falls out.”

But until scientists can isolate the exact cause for baldness, “I don’t think there will be a cure,” said Cole.

“What’s on the horizon and is hopeful is the cloning of hair follicles,” he added, which he said would be huge news for patients who don’t have enough donor hair for a hair transplant procedure. 

“If we can clone follicles, there would be an abundance of follicles, and that wouldn’t limit anyone from having a full head of hair,” Cole said.

Doctors are also doing stem cell research. Initially, they expected that bald men would have fewer stem cells than men without baldness, but that hasn’t proven to be true. Both groups have the same amount of stem cells beneath the scalp.  So some researchers are trying to find a way to “turn on” the stem cells again, in order to produce new follicle growth.

Right now, most scientists believe that humans are born with about 10,000 follicles, and when they die, the hair follicles die.

More from Jason DeRusha

One Comment

  1. tony says:

    Its not a cure but it can make a true differance as it did for me. The company is in Edina MN and is the only place to get a full looking head of hair. I learned about them on a story that wcco did about 4 months ago. Its called Cosemtic Hair Replication.

    THe website is

  2. JamieinMN says:

    My future hubby is balding, he said it started thinning about 10 years ago (he’s 29). He just keeps his hair very short. I would much rather have him do that, than get hair plugs which would look completely unnatural.

    1. Todd Oesterreich says:

      Get out of the ’50s

  3. TWiG says:

    God made many heads. The ones he didn’t like so much, he covered with hair.

  4. GetReal says:

    Nobody ‘suffers’ from baldness. There is no pain involved…no suffering. Quit using exaggerating language that teaches our kids to be liars, exaggerators and victims.

    1. Courteney says:

      Well said

      1. Rob says:

        Courtney….Glad you have such a positive outlook on hairloss….maybe someday you will get your chance to experience…I would never wish it on anybody…But if anybodys going to experience it, it should be you since you would be so ok with it

    2. Todd Oesterreich says:

      I guess no one ‘suffers’ from mental illness either.

  5. yep says:

    Interesting it is thought of like a disease. I wonder how some of the bald people I see around would like it if I walked up to them and wished them well in their fight against the lifelong struggle of baldness.

  6. K. says:

    My father sported his baldness with pride and poked a lot of humor on himself. I saw a picture of him as a young man and told him that I was surprised to see he had wavy hair once. He replied, “Yeah, it waved ‘goodbye’!” He was also quick to point out that the reason for his baldness (as stated above) was too much testosterone. So, my dad would say (tongue in cheek), “I have more testosterone than men with a full head of hair which makes me more of a man!” God rest his soul……….he may have been bald but to me he was the handsomest man in the world!

  7. Real Deal says:

    While I can agree that this may not fall under the category of disease, to be a 52 year old woman who is going bald IS painful. It’s extremely embarrassing, difficult to go out in public, to go swimming or even out on a windy day. I would be so grateful for anything that would restore my hair and my confidence. I would never have thought that losing my hair could make me feel this bad. Please don’t judge me.

    1. Courteney says:

      I hope you find something that makes you feel better.

      1. Todd Oesterreich says:

        Seems to be a lot of self satisfied posters out here.

  8. Steve Cook says:

    Hair is the most important element of male fashion, in my opinion. The key of course being if you have hair! Men with thinning hair or bald heads have simply run out of choices when it comes to styling options. Most people like to have options. Most of us like to dress in present day fashion. Losing your hair leaves you with very few options, if any! I guess you could tattoo your head, but that does not seem like a very mainstream choice. One way is to fight your way back by battling baldness like I did. My name is Steve Cook. I have been battling baldness for more than 25 years and winning. I have tried everything. The only hair loss option that works is hair transplantation. And the very best surgeon around is Dr Brett Bolton in Ft Lauderdale. Dr Bolton has been fixing hair loss in men for more than 14 years. And doing it better than anybody! I offer free hair loss advice to anyone who needs it. The sooner you do something the better. Be proactive!
    Steve Cook

    1. Courteney says:

      25 years???? You honestly don’t have anything better to do?

      1. Todd Oesterreich says:

        Have you been clipping your toenails for the last 25 years? You honestly don’t have anything better to do?

  9. Bud says:

    If you want to use your hormones to grow hair, I guess that’s your business

  10. Armandein says:

    There is not a balding gene, in hair cycle exist hundreds of them,
    and the really important hormones are siytesized inside pilosebaceous unit.
    The term Androgenetic Alopecia is really new, baldness or common hair loss is with us thousand of years

  11. Rena Graham says:

    For those who are suffering from hair loss and are within desperate moves to have that normal head of hair, you might find yourself asking if you are a good candidate for a hair transplant.


  12. Great Hair says:

    Hair transplant surgery is the most effective way to restore hair loss. The technique has changed dramatically since the days of large unnatural looking plugs.

    For more information:

  13. Andrew Kim says:

    Some may take hair loss and baldness as a normal process in some people. You’d just probably think that it is in Mr. Jones’ nature to lose some of his hair in front because he is getting older. But you wouldn’t know what it really feels like when you don’t experience it yourself.

    Visit us here for hair loss treatment:

  14. Janet says:

    I would be interested to know a good doctor here in MN that does a very good job at hair transplantation. The procedure costs enough without a trip to Ft. Lauderdale!

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