Researchers have tracked down a protein that appears to be a culprit in male baldness—thus identifying what they call a "target" for new treatments. University of Pennsylvania scientists found that the protein's levels are boosted in bald areas of the scalp. When they bred mice with high levels of the stuff, known as prostaglandin D synthase, the mice went totally bald, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, the protein halted the growth of transplanted human hairs.
"Essentially we showed that prostaglandin protein was elevated in the bald scalp of men and that it inhibited hair growth. So we identified a target for treating male-pattern baldness," says the lead researcher. Now it's time to learn whether a treatment based on the process "would reverse balding or just prevent balding—a question that would take a while to figure out." Scientists are already working on drugs that affect the pathways involved, the researchers say. (Read more baldness stories.)