TODAY   |  September 12, 2012

Scientists find vitamin D could cure baldness

More than half of American men experience hair loss after they turn 50, but now Japanese scientists have found that vitamin D could be a possible baldness cure. NBC’s Craig Melvin reports.

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>>> we're back now at 8:11 with a potential new hope for millions of americans bedeviled by baldness. here's nbc's craig melvin.

>> reporter: in recent years, screen stars and athletes have embraced the inevitable, making chrome domes cool. and now there's the dashing royal landing a beautiful princess despite his thinning hair. colin watson is bald and proud. scott evans started shaving it 15 years ago.

>> once you go bald, you don't go back.

>> reporter: but not every member of the bald brotherhood is happy about losing their hair. doctors like mark dauer perform more than 1,000 hair replacement surgeries a year.

>> what i see in my patients is when we can restore the hair, in the only does it make them feel better about themselves, but it restores their self-confidence.

>> reporter: but at an average cost of between $8,000 and $ $12,000, hair restoration surge have i too expensive for many. many turn to popular drugs like propecia and row gain. soon though some hope there may be another option.

>> this research that we've come up with is fantastic news for us.

>> reporter: recently japanese scientists figured out how to grow human hair on hairless mice. scientists discovered there's a nutrient that seems to awaken the receptors and follicles that shot down in hair loss , that nutriien and possible cure for baldness, vitamin d .

>> i don't think it's the level of vitamin d . it's how the vitamin d is being handled by the receptors in the follicles that may be part of the reason why we lose our hair when we get older.

>> reporter: that's cause for cautious optimism.

>> in the next few years we'll have many other options that ultimately one day will make hair loss a voluntary thing.

>> if they could do it, i'd think about it, but they got to convince me first. i'm a non-believer.

>> reporter: some are skeptical about a miracle cure. others don't see the need.

>> i choose to stay bald. i'm comfortable. i like the look. my wife likes the look. i'm good.

>> i like his look, too. that was nbc's craig melvin. dermatologist susan taylor joins us. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> people who have lost their hair or dare i say a cure, let's understand about what exactly causes people to lose hair.

>> sure. many different causes of hair loss , but the bottom line is that there are three phases of hair growth , the anagen or growth face, that can last two to five years but there's a sleeping phase. that's only supposed to last weeks or months, but sometimes it becomes permanent, and that can lead to ballotness.

>> so the follicle goes to sleep.

>> that's right.

>> and what is it about vitamin d that can actually reawaken that follicle?

>> well, what scientists have found is that vitamin d and the receptors, so that you can think of the receptor as a lock. vitamin d is the key that fits into the lock, and that seems to cause hair to grow, and also can help generate stem cells . those are cells that can turn into follicles to form.

>> did this research indicate whether vitamin d might one day be more effective than things like row gain and propecia and other drugs?

>> well, row gain and propecia they prevent further hair loss . well, the hope is with vitamin d and activating the receptor, turning the receptor on to grow hair, that we can either cure hair or take a bald scalp and grow hair.

>> what are we suggesting, that one day there will be an ointment of vitamin d , or are we going to be ingesting it? how will we get it into our systems?

>> we're not quite sure, so right now all the science is done in the lab. it's done in animals and cell cultures . we'll have to wait and see if it's vitamin d that will activate the receptors or the compounds, something that activates the resomors.

>> a lot of bald men who want their hair back. are we suggesting that you'll at one point get the vitamin d in your system and you'll start sprouting hair again, or will this take years, months.

>> >> we don't know. we don't know. we hope it's a potential cure, but there's much work to be done to translate what we've learned in the lab to humans.

>> just a fun fact for our friends without hair. you lose about 100 hairs from your scalp every single day.

>> every single day.

>> that's right.

>> which means in about two and a half weeks i'm mr. clean. that's good. doctor, thank you. nice to see