University of California - A single chemical could be responsible for whether people go bald or not, a new study has found.

In the UK, approximately two thirds of men will face male pattern baldness. The study says the discovery of the chemical could “not only treat baldness, but ultimately speed wound healing”.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, found that a sole chemical is responsible for hair follicles dividing and dying.

In the study published in the Biophysical Journal, study co-author Qixuan Wang said: “In science fiction when characters heal quickly from injuries, the idea is that stem cells allowed it.

“In real life, our new research gets us closer to understanding stem cell behavior, so that we can control it and promote wound healing.”

The team looked at hair follicles as these are the only human organ that regenerates regularly and automatically, and discovered that a type of protein called TGF-beta controls how the stem cells in hair follicles divide and why some can die off.

Wang explained: “TGF-beta has two opposite roles. It helps activate some hair follicle cells to produce new life, and later, it helps orchestrate apoptosis, the process of cell death.

“Even when a hair follicle kills itself, it never kills its stem cell reservoir. When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cell and develop into a new follicle.”

However, the scientists found that when a hair follicle dies, the stem cell reservoir still remains.

“When the surviving stem cells receive the signal to regenerate, they divide, make new cells and develop into a new follicle,” Wang said.

The study authors added that it may be possible to stimulate hair growth by activating follicle stem cells, but more research on the subject needs to be done.