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Significant Find in Battle against Baldness

A study at the University of Pennsylvania may hold new hope for the hairless, pointing researchers down a road that might one day lead to treatments to reverse hair loss.

"Basically," explained CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton on "The Early Show" Thursday, "they sought to answer the question, 'Do stem cells have an effect on baldness?'

"They looked at bald male scalps and compared them with those of men with hair. They wanted to look at whether they had the same number of stem cells, which are naive cells that can then go on to become other cells, for example, a hair follicle.

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"They were surprised to find that they had the same number of stem cells. But when they looked a little more closely, they found that the men who were bald had fewer of a more mature type of cell, and the thinking there is that the stem cells somehow, in some way, become deactivated.

"Once you find out that something is deactivated, the target there in terms of therapy is, can you turn it on? Can you activate it? And that's what they're going to be looking at in the future."

Ashton noted that the "huge" psychological impact of going bald - for both women and men who do - can be partially offset with procedures. "(Baldness) is a problem for both sexes, to be clear," Ashton observed. "It can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety for both men and women.

"There is everything from medications to hair extensions, hairpieces, weaves, you can change your hairstyle, even, and in some cases, hair transplants. A lot of the therapies are very effective. But they don't treat the anxiety and they don't get at the root cause of the problem.

"I think that one important thing psychologically is to recognize that hair is very tuned in to our sense of attractiveness. There are a lot of celebrities who made it very open (that they care) about how they look. But, again, beauty comes from within as well as the outside."