study-of-52000-men-uncovers-the-genetics-underlying-male-pattern-baldnessAs a man with a receding hair myself, I took particular interest in a new study published this week. The study has identified over 250 new areas of the genome that are associated with hair loss.

Male pattern baldness affects around 80% of men by the age of 80 years. Baldness has, unsurprisingly, been linked with changes in self-confidence and social perception. However, more surprisingly baldness has also been linked to prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The study from the University of Edinburgh is the largest genomic study of hair loss ever published. Looking at 52,000 males between the ages of 40-69 years they performed a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) to identify areas of the genome (genetic loci) that were associated with hair loss. They split the sample group into two: 40,000 of the men were used to discover the linked genetic loci. The results of the GWAS were then used to predict baldness in the remaining 12,000.

Of those who had less linked genetic loci than average, 14% had severe hair loss and 39% no hair loss. By contrast, of those with the most linked genetic loci (top 10%), 58% reported moderate-to-severe hair loss.

Many of the genes identified are related to hair growth, hair colour and greying with a few of the genes having been previously linked to balding. The genes with the strongest link to balding are genes that are responsible for regulating other genes this suggests that balding results from a change in the regulation of the hair growth genes.

Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student from The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, who jointly led the research, said: “We identified hundreds of new genetic signals. It was interesting to find that many of the genetics signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers.”

The study’s principal investigator, Dr Riccardo Marioni, from The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, said: “We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual’s hair loss pattern. However, these results take us one step closer. The findings pave the way for an improved understanding of the genetic causes of hair loss.”

So we are now one step closer to getting a genetic test to predict for balding and to identify new therapeutic targets to help combat balding.



Research Article

Image Credit: Douglas Robertson, University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology