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Scalp-zapping cap could reverse male balding, researchers say

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are testing shocking ways to reduce male baldness.

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Delivering electric pulses to the scalp via a baseball cap may help bald men regrow hair, according to research published last week in the journal ACS Nano

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that attaching a patch that delivers electric stimulation to rats and mice resulted in increased hair growth and density when compared with treating them with minoxidil lotion (the hair growth ingredient found in Rogaine). The patch sticks to skin and generates gentle electric pulses by using energy from body movement, New Scientist reported.

The patch stimulated faster hair regrowth in shaved rats. It also led to more hair growth in mice that are hairless due to genetic deficiencies: After nine days, 2 mm-long fur grew on the mice skin under the patch, compared with 1 mm-long fur that grew on the skin treated with the minoxidil lotion. 

With those promising results, the researchers next designed a baseball cap that covers the scalp in the patch material. They're seeking approval to test it in men in a clinical trial, and hope to begin those tests within six months, researcher Xudong Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told CNET in an email. 

"To work on humans has always been our ultimate goal," Wang said. "We chose the nude mice model because it is a typical example tested for many hair generation medicines. It provides a good reference to validate the technology."

The cap isn't producing crazy electric shocks; the pulses are very gentle, Wang said. However, it'll likely work only in men who are currently losing their hair or have recently become bald -- after being bald for years, the skin loses its ability to generate new hair follicles, he added.

"Our new technology can really make peoples lives better," Wang said, as it would be noninvasive and low-cost. 

The researchers didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.