THE BALDNESS ANSWER: Give me a head with hair! Long beautiful hair!

200px-simpson_and_delilah.gifGateHouse – I have good news from the world of Science, which has taken a small break from debunking all the make-believe environmental theories President Bush believes to issue a statement that should please him and his doughy, bald colleagues: Science has figured out a way to regrow hair.

Not just hair — human hair.

Hair that goes on top of the head.

That massive, sloshing sound you just heard was millions of men lumbering off the couch to find out where Science is selling the means to do this, and how near that place is to doughnuts.

Dermatologists at the University of Pennsylvania made the follicular breakthrough last month, thrilling the scientific community, as well as lame humor writers who make up words like “follicular,” which sounds like a magical unicorn from Middle Earth that can eat pain.

But first, some Facts. Regrowth is not unique in the human experience; though mammals, humans and Alberto Gonzales are incapable of true regeneration, scientists have figured out a way to regrow part of the liver. Which is all well and good, except that, in most people, the liver is located inside, where, say, if you’re missing part of it, it’s not heartbreakingly obvious to the barista behind the counter with whom you’re clumsily trying to make eye contact in an attempt to reclaim the fragile last vestiges of your youth (Update: I’m being told that missing part of your liver would result in all manner of physical problems, such as death, foot cramps and several variants on the word “leaking,” but I needed the original point for the joke, and I’m reasonably sure no one’s using this column to help them with their physiology grad papers, so I’m leaving it.)

Researchers writing in the May issue of the journal Nature (it’s the one with Avril Lavigne on the cover) say that the hair re-grew on areas of mice in which the follicles had been removed. Bruce Morgan, an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard, which in 2006 was named the No. 1 Party Dermatology Department in America by Playboy, called the research “striking. (The researchers) programmed the cells to regenerate those organs from scratch.”

So, yeah, it’s great that you can regrow a liver or a pancreas or whatever, but neither of those organs result in the tangibly faded sense of vitality that come with middle age, which is, of course, one of the primary driving forces behind all manner of aberrant male behavior in most men, such as road rage, fantasy baseball and starting wars with countries that didn’t attack you.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of functional hair replacement therapy in today’s culture (“Oh sure,” you’re arguing out loud to your newspaper, causing the family to gaze at each other in growing discomfort, “But what about all those other hair-replacement products, the malodorous goop you wax on your gleaming scalp like fertilizer in order to catalyze a luscious new mane?” Good question. 1. You sure are wordy and 2. Those don’t work, and moreover, I have some pretty bad news regarding that Applebee’s gift card that Bill Gates is supposed to send you if you forward that e-mail around).

So keep an eye out for this story in the future, particularly as we march ahead in the fields of cloning. In fact, I am reasonably sure that if male pattern baldness could be reversed with the destruction of a few embryos here and there, the debate in Congress would take about 12 seconds and be followed by a comical, “Lion King”-esque stampede to the doctor’s office. I am also reasonably sure that if male pattern baldness could be reversed by slaughtering tens of thousands of orphaned, weeping baby koala bears who are all eating oversized lollipops and singing Carpenters songs, the exact same thing would happen. On the plus side, there probably wouldn’t be any foot cramps.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

One response to “THE BALDNESS ANSWER: Give me a head with hair! Long beautiful hair!

  • Robert

    I’m still skeptical, dammit. But I’ve often thought about what would happen if baldness was “cured” — would guys like myself who’ve just decided to live with it and not fight it see bald friends suddenly regrow their hair and start thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll give it a shot”? Would it become socially acceptable, not cowardly and youth-obsessed, to reverse your hair loss?

    Such important questions to ponder. (Say, are we still fighting in Iraq? Really? Why?)

    Your use of that picture of Homer from the Dimoxinil episode of “The Simpsons” reminds me of a Principal Skinner line from a 1992 episode, when he sees Milhouse shaving a cuss word into the back of his head: “Hair is a privilege, not a right.” That line was funny when I was 16, but when my hair started thinning out six years later, it wasn’t just a laugh line anymore.


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