Study of 52,000 men uncovers the genetics underlying male pattern baldness

February 14, 2017
Genetics of male pattern baldness are shown. Credit: Douglas Robertson, University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology

A genomic study of baldness 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. The study, led by Saskia Hagenaars and W. David Hill of The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, is published February 14th, 2017 in PLOS Genetics.

Before this new study, only a handful of genes related to had been identified. The University of Edinburgh scientists examined genomic and health data from over 52,000 male participants of the UK Biobank, performing a genome-wide association study of baldness. They pinpointed 287 linked to the condition. 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 markers. Accurate predictions for an individual are still some way off, but the results can help to identify sub-groups of the population for which the risk of hair loss is much higher.

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.

Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student from The University of Edinburgh's Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, who jointly led the research, 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."

Dr David 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, Dr Riccardo Marioni, from The University of Edinburgh's Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, 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 ."

Explore further: Certain form of baldness at age 45 linked to higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer

More information: Hagenaars SP, Hill WD, Harris SE, Ritchie SJ, Davies G, Liewald DC, et al. (2017) Genetic prediction of male pattern baldness. PLoS Genet 13(2): e1006594. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006594

Related Stories

Baldness linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease

April 3, 2013

Male pattern baldness is linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, but only if it's on the top/crown of the head, rather than at the front, finds an analysis of published evidence in the online journal BMJ Open.

Recommended for you

What percentage of ALS is genetic?

June 21, 2017

Up to 90 percent of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) report that they have no family history of the disease. Now, new research has found approximately 17 percent of such ALS cases may be caused by a gene mutation, ...

Gene mutation linked to psychosis in Icelandic family

June 20, 2017

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Iceland, Finland and Germany has found evidence of a gene mutation in a large family in Iceland that explains why so many of them suffer from psychosis. In their paper published ...

0 comments

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.