A new study, based on genetic material from over 52,000 men, and in fact the largest ever to look at male hair loss, has found nearly 300 genes that contribute to the well known condition.
Prior to this, only a few genes relevant to male pattern baldness had been identified. The study’s results have shown, in particular, several genes that relate to the structure of hair.
This could have important implications for halting the progression of baldness, which generally occurs because hair follicles shrink, resulting in shorter and finer hair over time. The genes identified could become a target for pharmaceutical therapy in the future.
It is generally accepted that male baldness relates to family history (or genetics) and levels of hormones called androgens. Although most Caucasian men will eventually go bald, premature balding is thought to be caused by a defective androgen receptor gene.
Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student who co-authored the research said: “It was interesting to find that many of the genetic signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers.”
The researchers believe they will now be able to identify sub-groups of the population who are at a greater risk of balding.
However, the study’s lead researcher Dr Riccardo Marioni, who works at the University of Edinburgh, has voiced uncertainty over the potential for individual genetic profiling: “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.”
Image: Pixabay Enerio