To understand the biology and science of the growing hair, it is important to first know that the hair cells continuously reproduce. The biological site for this growth is the dermal papillae. Dermal means cuticle, skin, covering, or epidermal, and papillae mean outgrowth or processes. We might also call this site the follicle.
When the growth sites are damaged or destroyed, for example by second degree burns, the construction of the dermal papillae will change. The change does not mean that there will never again be growth at the site. On the contrary, our bodies have the ability to regenerate and repair cells. The damaged dermal papillae will become active when it returns to normalcy.
The new growth will have a different look than the original hairs. Growth may also be sporadic, may be thinner than before, and can be fuzzy. An example of this change is the patient who undergoes chemotherapy. Although there was no trauma to the skin, the drug kills all cells so the patients hair will fall out. Regrowth after treatment often produces a different type of growth than the person had before treatment. Irregular growth will also happen with transplantation.
New growth does not erupt from the skin one strand at a time. Rather, it comes up from the scalp in a grouping of more than three strands. The speed at which it grows is estimated to be about a half inch each month. For a healthier scalp the growth time may be less, while others may have slower growth time.
Our hairs will naturally fall out about every five months and will be replaced with new stronger healthier strands. These new strands push out the old ones replacing them under normal conditions. Unfortunately, this does not happen with male pattern baldness, the strands that are lost are not replaced. Scientists are currently looking for ways to promote new growth.
Balding is currently treated cosmetically by covering the loss, with transplants, and treated with medicines that include topical remedies. Scientist have proved that specific vitamins and mineral are needed for healthy growth. Combining the right sulfur containing supplements, minerals, and vitamins, are important to promote healthy growth. Unfortunately, the treatments have their limitations and no one in particular will work for all individuals.
With private labs and universities currently working to find remedies for this problem, treatment options look as though they will improve. Cloning and gene therapy are two approaches that will likely succeed. There are specific genes in the follicles that have been identified as causing dysfunction in growth when mutation takes place. Several diseases that can cause balding involve some type of genetic development. While biologists focus their attention to fixing errors in genetics, cloning deals with using stem cells to grow new follicles. The cells, collected from donors, are processed in the laboratory.
When we consider how biology and science of growing hair has improved, it is not unreasonable to believe that we will see these approaches on the cutting edge of the treatment for baldness. Once a condition that people just accepted as a part of life, there is the promise of a cure.