Afraid of baldness? Study could help predict the odds of losing one’s hair

The study is the largest genetic analysis of male pattern baldness to date.

February 14, 2017 23:25
1 minute read.
A man with baldness is seen in Seville, southern Spain

A man with baldness is seen in Seville, southern Spain. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Young men whose parents have more scalp than hair usually contemplate with anxiety whether they have a bald future themselves. Now UK scientists have conducted a study of baldness and identified more than 200 genetic regions involved in this common but potentially embarrassing condition. These genetic variants could be used to predict a man’s chance of severe hair loss, said Saskia Hagenaars and Dr. David Hill of the University of Edinburgh in an article published Tuesday in PLoS Genetics.

Hagenaars, a doctoral student from his university’s Center for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, 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.”

Before this new study, only a handful of genes related to baldness had been identified. The University of Edinburgh scientists examined genomic and health data from over 52,000 men whose data are listed in the UK Biobank, performing a genome-wide association study of baldness.

They identified 287 genetic regions linked to the condition.

The study is the largest genetic analysis of male pattern baldness to date. Many of the identified genes are related to hair structure and development. They could provide possible targets for drug development to treat baldness or related conditions.

The researchers created a formula to try and predict the chance that a person will go bald, based on the presence or absence of certain genetic markers. Accurate predictions for a single individual are still some way off, but the results can quickly help to identify sub-groups of the of the population for which the risk of hair loss is much higher.

Hill, who co-led the research, said: “In this study, 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.”

The study’s principal investigator from the university, Dr. Riccardo Marioni, 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.”

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