Pol­lu­tion may cause bald­ness: study

Sci­en­tists sug­gest ex­er­cis­ing in­doors

National Post (National Edition) - - Front Page - HENRY BOD­KIN

LON­DON • Air pol­lu­tion may cause bald­ness, sci­en­tists have shown for the first time.

A study found that fine par­tic­u­late mat­ter emit­ted by cars dam­aged the skin that holds hair fol­li­cles in place.

A se­ries of lab­o­ra­tory tests on hu­man cells showed lev­els of the cru­cial pro­teins needed for hair to grow and be re­tained de­creased the more they were ex­posed to pol­lu­tion par­ti­cles.

While there is a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence to show how these tiny par­ti­cles can dam­age in­ter­nal health, in­clud­ing by en­ter­ing the blood­stream through the lungs, it is the first to demon­strate such a risk to the sur­face of the body.

Re­searchers said ex­er­cis­ing in­doors rather than in pol­luted cities could be a way to re­duce hair loss.

The study was con­ducted by ex­pos­ing hu­man fol­li­cle der­mal papilla cells (HFDPCs) to var­i­ous con­cen­tra­tions of PM10-like — par­tic­u­late 10 mi­crome­tres or less in di­am­e­ter — dust and diesel par­tic­u­late. Af­ter 24 hours, the re­searchers per­formed a process, known as western blot­ting, to de­tect the lev­els of spe­cific pro­teins in the cells.

The re­sults showed that the pres­ence of PM10 and diesel par­tic­u­late de­creased lev­els of Beta-catenin, a pro­tein re­spon­si­ble for hair growth.

They also re­vealed the lev­els of three other pro­teins — cy­clin D1, cy­clin E and CDK2 — re­spon­si­ble for hair growth and hair re­ten­tion, were de­creased by PM10-like dust and diesel par­tic­u­late in a “dose-de­pen­dent” man­ner.

Dr. Hyuk Chul Kwon, who led the study at the Fu­ture Science Re­search Cen­tre, South Korea, said: “While the link be­tween air pol­lu­tion and se­ri­ous dis­eases such as cancer, chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease are well es­tab­lished, there is lit­tle to no re­search on the ef­fect of par­tic­u­late mat­ter ex­po­sure on the hu­man skin and hair in par­tic­u­lar. Our re­search ex­plains the mode of ac­tion of air pol­lu­tants on hu­man fol­li­cle der­mal papilla cells, show­ing how the most com­mon air pol­lu­tants lead to hair loss.”

Re­cent re­search in China found men in their 20s were go­ing bald sooner than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Al­though bald­ing is typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing, an in­creas­ing num­ber of mil­len­ni­als in the U.S. say they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing hair loss.

Two-thirds of all men will even­tu­ally be af­fected.

Ge­netic fac­tors re­main the most in­flu­en­tial known cause of bald­ness.

Par­tic­u­late mat­ter sources in­clude burn­ing fos­sil fu­els — in­clud­ing gas, diesel and other solid fu­els such as coal, oil and biomass — as well as in­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties such as build­ing, min­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“While it is dif­fi­cult to es­cape am­bi­ent pol­lu­tion, lim­it­ing time walk­ing on busy streets, es­pe­cially dur­ing rush hour, should help to re­duce ex­po­sure,” Kwon said. “If you are ex­er­cis­ing out­doors, try to do so in ar­eas that are less pol­luted and do not spend too much time wait­ing at traf­fic hot spots such as traf­fic lights.”

The study is be­ing pre­sented at the Eu­ro­pean Academy of Der­ma­tol­ogy and Venere­ol­ogy Congress, Madrid.


Co­me­dian Larry David is among the two-thirds of men af­fected by bald­ness.

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