Testosterone and other androgen hormones are usually thought of as the male sex hormones since they largely determine the features of masculinity such as facial and body hair, gonadal development, and muscle mass development. Testosterone is also necessary for the formation of spermatozoa (which will become the mature sperm) in the testes for reproduction purposes. Females also have testosterone but usually at much lower concentrations than males. Similarly males have some estrogen but only in small concentrations.

Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen hormone that has the chemical formula C19H30O2. It is actually produced from the testosterone in a chemical reaction that involves an enzyme that is called 5-α reductase. Testosterone has the chemical formula C19H28O2, and is therefore similar to the dihydrotestosterone, but the enzyme causes a reaction in which there is the addition of more hydrogen atoms to the testosterone to form the dihydrotestosterone. This hormone, dihydrotestosterone also affects the growth of the prostate and in later years may lead to an enlarged prostate gland and possibly an increased risk of a man getting prostate cancer.

Dihydrotestosterone and hair

The dihydrotestosterone increases the development of armpit hair and facial hair, and high levels of this hormone are often associated with increased body hair growth. The irony is that although this hormone increases body hair, it often causes a loss of scalp hair in the condition known as androgenetic alopecia.

Scientists have found that the dihydrotestosterone causes miniaturization of the hair follicles in men who have androgenetic alopecia. What happens is the hormone changes the structures of individual hair follicles such that the hair roots retreat and in the end several miniaturized hair bulbs are left in the skin. The condition results in less terminal hairs being produced and more of what are called vellus hairs.

How dihydrotestosterone is made

Researchers have investigated the protein 5-α reductase, and have found it is the type 2 form of this enzyme which seems most implicated in causing hair loss in androgenetic alopecia. Scientists have discovered that men with the typical male pattern form of baldness seen in androgenetic alopecia have a higher level of type 2 5a-reductase enzyme activity evident in the actual hair follicles.

It became evident to the researchers that those men who have androgenetic alopecia also have an increased propensity to convert testosterone into dihydrotestosterone and that this was because they had high concentrations of the type 2 5a-reductase present. Hair follicles have special protein molecules known as receptors to which the androgen hormones bind. It is this binding of the androgen hormones that causes changes in the cells and tissue leading to changes in hair follicles.

Is androgenetic alopecia a condition that can be cured?

Scientists continue to do research into androgenetic alopecia and the effects of reductase activity on testosterone conversion in hopes of improving methods of treating the condition. There is no way to actually cure the condition, but there are options that are available that you can find out about at various clinics like the Vera Clinic. Besides FUE hair transplants there are PRP therapies and various prescription medicines that may be helpful.