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The bald truth about hair loss

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Coen Gho

Medical Doctor, Hair Science Institute

There are various hair loss treatments available that can have a positive effect — depending on how much hair you have left.


Hair loss is a natural part of the ageing process. Worrying about hair loss, however, used to be seen as the preserve of the younger man — someone who was prematurely balding in his late teens, twenties or early thirties. It was presumed that those in middle or old age just accepted it as an unfortunate fact of life.

In fact, hair loss can be distressing at any age — and an increasing number of people over 50 and 60 are looking into hair restoration techniques, says Coen Gho, Medical Doctor at Hair Science Institute in the Netherlands.

“Compared to 20 or 25 years ago, people who are getting older enjoy better fitness and better health,” says Gho. “Yet when they lose their hair, they look old, even though they still feel fit. So they want to do something about it.”

What are the options?

Most men lose their hair through Male Pattern Alopecia (MPA), a genetic condition which affects around half of all men by the age of 50; although poor diet and lifestyle can be factors in sudden hair-loss. If you have already lost your hair, there isn’t a great deal you can do about it. If you are beginning to go bald, there are clinically trialled medications — finasteride and minoxidil — that can prevent further hair loss (although these will work for some, not for all). Unfortunately, any re-grown hair will disappear if treatment is stopped. Volumising shampoos are also available and can have the effect of making hair look thicker; plus there is a treatment that sprays statically charged fibres onto one side of an existing hair. Again, the results can be volumising.

Hair transplantation is another way of treating the condition, although this has traditionally been seen as a lengthy and difficult operation, usually reserved for celebrities and footballers.

It involves moving hair follicles from a ‘donor site’ at the back of the head to the front of the head where the hairline is receding, or to the crown where it is thinning — and it can be painful.

New technique

Gho, however, has invented a new technique called Hair StemCell Transplantation, which uses a tiny needle to extract a minimal piece of tissue from the donor site. This contains a very small part of the hair stem cells, but a sufficient enough amount to produce a new hair.

“The whole follicle is not needed to regenerate hair growth,” he says. After treatment, the hairs in the donor area can be cut short, without any visible density loss and without scars — and, says Gho, the technique is not painful.

Women who are losing their hair — and there are said to be eight million of them in the UK — are also seeking out hair restoration techniques, points out Gho.

But whatever age you are, and whether you are male or female, there are things that you can do to treat hair loss if it is a problem for you. If, or until, a ‘cure’ is found — and potential ones are reported in the press on a regular basis — you should get help and advice from an expert as early as possible.

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A turning point in dementia research

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Hilary Evans

Alzheimers Research UK

It’s little over two years since the G8 Summit on Dementia in London and focus on dementia has been growing ever since. Global health leaders set an ambition to develop a treatment that could slow or stop dementia by 2025, along with welcome increases in research funding. 


Despite research funding still lagging far other major health conditions – dementia charities can invest around £17m a year compared to over £380m for cancer charities – there is a sense of optimism in the scientific community. Dementia is long overdue its place in the spotlight and we must capitalise on this opportunity.

The human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe and understanding how it goes wrong is one of our biggest scientific challenges. Although there are many things still to be uncovered about the workings of the brain and what happens in dementia, we know more than ever about the proteins, genes and molecules driving Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia. They are physical diseases, and with sustained investment and support, researchers can tackle them in the same way they’ve made such strides against heart disease and cancer.

The UK is home to some of the world’s greatest dementia scientists and they’re collaborating across the globe to make progress faster. Our scientists have discovered over 20 genes linked to an altered risk of Alzheimer’s, throwing open new avenues for treatment investigation. Researchers are working hard to understand and detect the earliest changes in the diseases that cause dementia, from innovative brain scanning to discovering blood signatures that could underpin new diagnostic techniques.

We’re reaching a turning point in research, where we must capitalise on these promising discoveries and ensure they’re translated quickly into new treatments, preventions and diagnostics. That urgent need drove us to launch the Alzheimer’s Research UK Drug Discovery Alliance – a network of Drug Discovery Institutes. Our Institutes will house dedicated drug discovery teams focused on designing and developing potential new drugs for dementia.

But it’s not only researchers that are making a difference in research. The public play a vital role too, not only in supporting research but also in taking part. Anyone with or without dementia interested in volunteering for research studies can visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk or call Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dementia Research Infoline on 0300 111 5 111.


Find out more about research into dementia at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org

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