Research ArticleHair Loss

Prostaglandin D2 Inhibits Hair Growth and Is Elevated in Bald Scalp of Men with Androgenetic Alopecia

Science Translational Medicine  21 Mar 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 126, pp. 126ra34
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003122

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A Not-So-Hairy Situation

Everybody wishes his or her hair was different; curly hair wants straight locks, straight hair desires some curl. Patients with androgenetic alopecia (AGA), however, would take either one, as long as it meant having hair. AGA is a disorder that affects both men and women, leading to hair thinning and loss. Here, Garza and colleagues provide new insight into the pathogenesis of AGA, in hopes of developing new therapeutics that target specific pathways responsible for baldness.

The authors first examined bald and haired scalp from five men with AGA and showed that the enzyme prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) synthase was elevated at the mRNA and protein levels in bald scalp only. In a larger group of 17 men, they confirmed that the synthase product PGD2 was also elevated in bald versus haired scalp. In mice with synchronized hair follicle cycling, Garza et al. uncovered a temporal relationship between PGD2 gene expression and hair follicle regression. The authors further found that PGD2 and a related metabolite, 15-dPGJ2, inhibited hair growth in both mice and human hair follicles, providing a crucial functional link between the prostaglandin pathway and AGA.

Garza and coauthors identified the receptor GPR44 to be responsible for mediating the negative effects of PGD2. By discovering such therapeutic targets for downstream drug development, such as a topical treatment, Garza et al. may have given patients with AGA a long-awaited choice: curly or straight?