Researchers discover baldness gene: 1 in 7 men at risk

Oct 12, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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: Diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stem cell progeny tell their parents when to turn on

May 09, 2014

(Phys.org) —Stem cells switch off and on, sometimes dividing to produce progeny cells and sometimes resting. But scientists don't fully understand what causes the cells to toggle between active and quiet ...

Scientists present genetic analysis of Selkirk Rex cats

Oct 30, 2012

Of course, pet owners may base their choice of animal companions on personality but – as with humans – appearance may play a large part in the selection of partner. For reasons on which the reader is ...

Recommended for you

Mysterious esophagus disease is autoimmune after all

50 minutes ago

(Medical Xpress)—Achalasia is a rare disease – it affects 1 in 100,000 people – characterized by a loss of nerve cells in the esophageal wall. While its cause remains unknown, a new study by a team of researchers at ...

Diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome

Jul 21, 2014

Because the severe autism-like condition Christianson Syndrome was only first reported in 1999 and some symptoms take more than a decade to appear, families and doctors urgently need fundamental information ...

New technique maps life's effects on our DNA

Jul 20, 2014

Researchers at the BBSRC-funded Babraham Institute, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Single Cell Genomics Centre, have developed a powerful new single-cell technique to help investigate how the environment ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

barakn
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.
Damon
not rated yet Oct 12, 2008
Well, there is the risk of not scoring.
barakn
not rated yet Oct 14, 2008
Like Michael Jordan didn't score?