Frank Mulligan: Science run amok
I’m all for waging scientific warfare in the battle to best the scourge that is androgenetic alopecia.
But sometimes we must weigh the costs involved in waging “total” war.
Androgenetic alopecia is known in layman’s terms as “male-pattern baldness.”
Scientists are making great strides in identifying its cause and thereby devising a treatment.
I fully expect a successful therapeutic method will be devised and disseminated several moments after the last hair on my head has succumbed to gravity.
But that’s neither hair nor there. (I’m terribly sorry for that.)
Anyway, it’s the manner in which the cure is being pursued that has me greatly concerned.
Scientists have discovered that bald scalp tissue has an elevated level of a protein called prostaglandin D2 compared with scalp tissue from hirsute individuals, like Steven Tyler or Russell Brand.
It’s been discovered that bald spots can contain up to three times the level of this protein, in fact.
But here’s where research takes a Frankensteinesque course, conjuring the question: Are there some things man just isn’t meant to know?
For the scientists began applying the protein to mice.
They were inducing baldness in the little critters.
And it worked. The mice’s little pates saw “slowed or completely inhibited hair growth,” according to a recent issue of “Science Transitional Medicine.”
Now, I’m a stakeholder in this quest to rid the world of androgenetic alopecia.
The name, Mulligan, actually means “the bald one” in Gaelic.
Nevertheless, I can’t abide creating little bald mice.
It seems too unnatural.
According to researchers, mice genetically engineered to have heightened levels of the protein in their skin also developed androgenetic alopecia.
What could be the unforeseen consequences of such tampering with nature?
Mice with a penchant for wearing hats indoors?
Or worse, female mice who giggle at male mice sporting tiny hairpieces?
Is it really worth the risk?
Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media New England’s Plymouth, Mass., office, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.