Last updated at 12:55 AM on 6th June 2011
A 'werewolf' gene which causes hair to grow all over the body has been found by scientists, who say the discovery could lead to a remedy for baldness.
They have tracked down a genetic fault which is behind a rare condition called hyper- trichosis, or werewolf syndrome, where thick hair covers the face and upper body.
They say they may be able to use drugs to trigger a similar gene mutation in people to encourage hair to grow on bald patches.
Breakthrough: Scientists have identified a genetic fault called hyper-trichosis which could, in time, spell the end for baldness
But the scientists stressed that tackling baldness was still many years away.
They do not yet know how they would be able to trigger hair to grow in bald patches without causing excessive growth all over the body.
Werewolf syndrome is extremely rare, with only 50 recorded cases in the past 300 years.
One is Supatra Sasuphan, an 11-year-old girl from Thailand who was named as the world's hairiest child in the Guinness World Records in March.
Men with the condition have hair all over their face, including eyelids, and upper bodies.
Women tend to just have hair in patches although Supatra has it covering much of her face.
Example: Thai schoolgirl Supatra Sasuphan suffers from the genetic fault known as werewolf syndrome, which causes hair to grow on her face
Scientists from the University of Southern California, working with researchers from Beijing, discovered the gene in a Mexican family and Chinese family who both had the condition – known in the medical world as CGH.
Professor Pragna Patel, of the university's Institute for Genetic Medicine, said certain genes appeared to have been 'turned on', which may trigger the excessive hair growth.
In the future, scientists could use drugs to 'turn on' genes, which could trigger hair growth.
Professor Patel added: 'If in fact the inserted sequences turn on a gene that can trigger hair growth, it may hold promise for treating baldness.'
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