The genes that predict your risk of hair loss

Wednesday, 15 February, 2017

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Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have identified almost 300 genetic regions involved in the common condition of male pattern baldness. Before this study took place, only a handful of genes related to baldness had been identified.

The study saw the scientists examine genomic and health data from over 52,000 male participants of the UK Biobank, in what is said to be the largest genetic analysis of male pattern baldness to date. The genome-wide association study successfully pinpointed 287 genetic regions linked to baldness, with many of these genes related to hair structure and development.

“We identified hundreds of new genetic signals,” said PhD student Saskia Hagenaars, who co-led the research. “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.”

“In this study, data were collected on hair loss pattern but not age of onset,” added co-leader Dr David Hill. “We would expect to see an even stronger genetic signal if we were able to identify those with early-onset hair loss.”

The researchers went on to create a formula to try and predict the chance that a person will go bald, based on the presence or absence of certain genetic markers. The results could help identify subgroups of the population for which the risk of hair loss is much higher, with the riskier gene variants potentially serving as targets for drugs to treat the condition.

“We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual’s hair loss pattern,” said Dr Riccardo Marioni, the principal investigator on the study. “However, these results take us one step closer.”

The study has been published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Image credit: © picco

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