Genes can predict baldness in men

Two thirds of American men will experience some form of hair loss by the age of 35, and 85 percent of men will have significantly thinning hair by the age of 50, according to the American Hair Loss Association. While scientists have begun trials for drugs treating other forms of baldness, like alopecia areata, there is no long-term treatment for male pattern baldness yet - despite what informercials may have you believe.

The chances of going bald have been uncovered by a study involving more than 52,000 men.

Celebrities like Elton John and chef Gordon Ramsay have undergone hair transplants to hang on to their youth after thinning on top. It's still "some way off" but the results can help to identify which men that are at a greater risk of losing their hair. Women can also be affected by hair loss and it is called female pattern hair loss.

"The findings pave way for an improved understanding of genetic causes of hair loss", said study's principal investigator, Dr Riccardo Marioni, from Edinburgh.

The male hormone, testosterone, replaces the old hair in the scalp with comparatively shorter and thinner hair which starts growing from the temples and crowns of the head. Using data from 53,000 men in the United Kingdom, they've come up with a DNA-based algorithm that could someday predict whether one is likely to go bald-one that's more reliable than family history. They pinpointed 287 genetic regions linked to the condition.

In the present study, researchers found that 14 percent of the participants with a submedian genetic score had severe MPB, and 39 percent had no hair loss. 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.

The study was performed by collecting genomic and health information from the UK Biobank of over 52,000 men, aged between 40 years to 69 years. The X chromosome was the main culprit behind male pattern baldness. But this study happily suggests genes which appear to be shared for baldness and Parkinson's disease are not statistically significant.

It was one of many genes pinpointed on the X; in a statement, co-author Saskia Hagenaars, a Ph.D. student, said, "It was interesting to find that numerous genetics signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers".

  • Lila Blake