Start On Way To Baldness Gene Therapy?

Is being bald really beautiful, as some folks would have you believe?

The curious thing, suggests CBS News correspondent Richard Roth may be that, jokes aside, hair loss hasn't seemed that much of an impediment to a lot of men in the public eye. Fame for them hasn't relied on functioning follicles.

Just ask Michael Jordan. Or Sean Connery, for instance.

Roth who, in the interest of full disclosure, we should point out is bald himself, says even a very random check of public opinion suggests baldness may not be the bane of all existence.

"I'm not a superficial kind of person, so I don't think it would make a difference to me," one woman told CBS News. "I don't mind at all," said another. "If a man is masculine, and manly, I think it's completely irrelevant."

The truth, says Roth, may be more complex given that, just in the United States alone, according to the Food and Drug Administration, around $1billion a year is spent on mostly bogus remedies for baldness.

Just-published genetic research doesn't exactly point to a cure, says Roth. It points more to a hope that, having pinpointed a gene linked to one very rare condition causing baldness in a small group of people, scientists may finally be on the path of -- if not at the doorstep to -- something bigger.

Gersh Kuntzman, who wrote "Hair: Mankind's Historic Quest to End Baldness," explained to Roth that, "The silver bullet is always been gene therapy, because there is no drug that can grow hair on a bald man's head. It can't be done, because the follicles have already shrunk up. You can't reopen it. However, if you can figure out what genetic process constricts those follicles, then maybe you can change that pattern and actually keep those follicles from constricting and have healthy hair grow forever."

Still, Roth points out, "The fine print reads, 'They haven't done that yet' which, perhaps, leaves us where we began: instead of raising false hopes -- or hair -- celebrating a loss, as an asset."
  • CBSNews

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