Researchers discover baldness gene: 1 in 7 men at risk

October 12, 2008

( -- Researchers at McGill University, King's College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results will be published Oct. 12 in the journal Nature Genetics.

About a third of all men are affected by male pattern baldness by age 45. The condition's social and economic impact is considerable: expenditures for hair transplantation in the United States alone exceeded $115 million (U.S.) in 2007, while global revenues for medical therapy for male-pattern baldness recently surpassed $405 million. Male pattern baldness is the most common form of baldness, where hair is lost in a well-defined pattern beginning above both temples, and results in a distinctive M-shaped hairline. Estimates suggest more than 80 per cent of cases are hereditary.

This study was conducted by Dr. Vincent Mooser of GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Brent Richards of McGill University's Faculty of Medicine and the affiliated Jewish General Hospital (and formerly of King's College), and Dr. Tim Spector of King's College. Along with colleagues in Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands, the researchers conducted a genome-wide association study of 1,125 caucasian men who had been assessed for male pattern baldness. They found two previously unknown genetic variants on chromosome 20 that substantially increased the risk of male pattern baldness. They then confirmed these findings in an additional 1,650 caucasian men.

"I would presume male pattern baldness is caused by the same genetic variation in non-caucasians," said Richards, an assistant professor in genetic epidemiology, "but we haven't studied those populations, so we can't say for certain."

Though the researchers consider their discovery to be a scientific breakthrough, they caution that it does not mean a treatment or cure for male pattern baldness is imminent.

"We've only identified a cause," Richards said. "Treating male pattern baldness will require more research. But, of course, the first step in finding a way to treat most conditions it is to first identify the cause."

"Early prediction before hair loss starts may lead to some interesting therapies that are more effective than treating late stage hair loss," added Spector, of King's College and director of the TwinsUK cohort study.

Researchers have long been aware of a genetic variant on the X chromosome that was linked to male pattern baldness, Richards said.

"That's where the idea that baldness is inherited from the mother's side of the family comes from," he explained. "However it's been long recognized that that there must be several genes causing male pattern baldness. Until now, no one could identify those other genes. If you have both the risk variants we discovered on chromosome 20 and the unrelated known variant on the X chromosome, your risk of becoming bald increases sevenfold."

"What's startling is that one in seven men have both of those risk variants. That's 14 per cent of the total population!"

Source: McGill University

Explore further: Male pattern balding may be due to stem cell inactivation: study

Related Stories

New gene in hair loss identified

April 14, 2010

A team of investigators from Columbia, Rockefeller and Stanford Universities has identified a new gene involved in hair growth, as reported in a paper in the April 15 issue of Nature. This discovery may affect future research ...

Professor discovers genetic basis for hair loss

October 15, 2010

"Physician, heal thyself." That oft-quoted proverb describes the ground-breaking effort by Columbia professor Angela Christiano to discover the cause of the second most common form of hair loss after male-pattern baldness.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2008
Since male pattern baldness is not a disease there is no "risk" of anything, but thanks to GlaxoSmithKline for trying to convince us otherwise.
not rated yet Oct 12, 2008
Well, there is the risk of not scoring.
not rated yet Oct 14, 2008
Like Michael Jordan didn't score?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.