20 February 2017
ByAppeared in BioNews 889
A new study has found over 280 genes associated with male-pattern baldness.
These genes could be used to predict a man's chance of hair loss or possibly provide targets for drug development in the future.
The research, published in PLOS Genetics, is the largest genomic study of baldness to date. Researchers studied the DNA of more than 52,000 men aged between 40–69 years old enrolled in the UK Biobank, looking for genes associated with baldness.
'We identified hundreds of new genetic signals,' Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and co-lead author, said. '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.'
Many of the 287 genes linked with hair loss were related to hair growth and development. The researchers used these genes to try to predict the chance that a man will go bald, and found that almost 60 percent of those with the most number of hair loss genes showed signs of moderate to serious balding. However, the authors state that predictions for individuals are still 'relatively crude'.
'Data were collected on hair-loss pattern but not age of onset; we would expect to see an even stronger genetic signal if we were able to identify those with early-onset hair loss,' said Dr David Hill, University of Edinburgh, who co-led the research.
Male-pattern baldness affects around half of all men by the age of 50. The condition is hereditary and thought to be linked to levels of a certain male sex hormone. Previous genetic studies have also associated male-pattern baldness with prostate cancer and heart disease.
The study's principal investigator, Dr Riccardo Marioni of the University of Edinburgh, 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.'
The study was based on information from the first release of data from the UK Biobank in 2015. The authors say that the release of data from the full cohort will enable them to further refine their predictions of male-pattern baldness and investigate its genetic basis.