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J Invest Dermatol. 1976 Jul;67(1):98-105.



The psychologic importance of hair to man is in inverse ratio to its physical function. Except for scalp hair and desultory areas of sexual hair, most of man's hair follicles are vestigial. Three problems of hair growth remain to be solved: (1) how the intermittent activity of hair follicles in both animals and man is controlled; (2) how the male hormone alters the hair cycle in human skin; and (3) why larger hairs are produced by testosterone in some areas of the body when in some individuals the hair follicles in the scalp regress. Studies in which skin grafts from rats of different ages were exchanged showed that hair follicles are innately programmed but can be slowly influenced by systemic factors. Steroid hormones, especially estrogens, slow down the moult cycle whereas thyroid hormones accelerate it. What establishes the innate rhythm remains problematical. The fact that plucking out the club hair initiates activity in resting follicles has been explained by the hypothesis that the mitotic inhibitor which accumulates during anagen is normally used up or dispersed during telogen or by wounding. However, contrary to this theory, follicular activity is not prolonged by epilation during anagen. Moreover, if rats are epilated within one or two days of eruption, only club hairs are removed since forceps cannot grasp the tips of the new hairs. Such epilation does not affect the anagen in progress, but remarkedly enough the subsequent resting phase is shortened. Both sexual hair and male-pattern baldness depend on androgenic hormones. Target organs of testosterone convert the hormone to active metabolites, chiefly 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone. In skin, however, 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone may not be the only active tissue androgen. The major metabolite of testosterone incubated with hair roots in androstenedione, and hirsute women without other obvious endocrine abnormality sometimes excrete high levels of androstanediol. Both steroids stimulated the sebaceous glands of hypophysectomized-castrated rats, which, however, showed only a limited response to testosterone. The androgenic steroids, the enzymes that convert them to their active metabolites, and the proteins that bind them are undoubtedly very important to the problems of the growth of sexual hair and male-pattern baldness.

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