It sounds like a harebrained scheme, but scientists studying baldness have come up with an idea for a cream that dissolves fat.

The idea is based on their discovery that hair follicles release chemicals that makes fat shrink or expand.

The skin can be stimulated to make those chemicals or they can be manufactured and put in a cream, says Professor Rodney Sinclair, a University of Melbourne and Epworth Hospital dermatologist involved in the research.

“This is a serious study. It has been published in the journal PNAS,” says Prof Sinclair, who is working with UK Professor Fiona Watt.

He envisages the concept could be used as an alternative to liposuction or to replace fat lost in scar tissue.

Prof Sinclair discovered that people with the auto-immune disease alopecia areata had reduced amounts of fat under their bald patches.

His work coincided with Prof Watt’s research into chemicals released by hair follicles.

“What we have done is show that chemicals released by the hair alter the fat underneath. They can cause it to increase or decrease,” he says.

“This is the first demonstration that the skin below the hair follicle can regulate the development of fat.”

The idea is that you could use a cream to shrink stubborn bits of fat on a person, he says.

It could also lead to treatments for pattern baldness and alopecia.

“My personal interest is in hair. How the findings are applied to fighting obesity will be up to others to some degree,” says Prof Sinclair.