Abnormal amounts of prostaglandin D2 may cause male pattern baldness, according to a new study in Science Translational Medicine.

The findings may help usher in new targeted treatments for baldness in men and women.

Bald men tend to have an excess of prostaglandin D2 on their scalps. This protein and its derivatives block hair growth via a receptor called GPR44. Drugs that inhibit GPR44 should delay male pattern baldness.

Some companies are developing such compounds already, according to study author George Cotsarelis, MD, chair and professor of dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“Although a different prostaglandin was known to increase hair growth, our findings were unexpected, as prostaglandins haven’t been thought about in relation to hair loss, yet it made sense that there was an inhibitor of hair growth, based on our earlier work looking at hair follicle stem cells," he says in a press release.

In a previous study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Costarelis and colleagues showed that underlying hair follicle stem cells were found intact. This suggests that the scalp was lacking an activator or something was inhibiting hair follicle growth.

As the director of the Foundation for Hair Restoration in Miami and New York City, Jeffrey Epstein, MD, tells WebMD about the new report: “Is this promising? Of course. Anything that can treat male pattern hair loss at the cellular level is exciting,” he says. “To date, this is the most specific way we have seen to inhibit hair loss.”

Source: Science Translational Medicine