Space & Innovation

Will You Go Bald? Your Genes Could Tell, Finds New Research

Newly identified genetic markers can find subgroups of men who are at a much higher risk for hair loss than others.

More than 200 genetic variants that cause male pattern baldness have been identified by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the largest study of the condition to date. These new findings could be used to predict the chances that a man will suffer from severe hair loss.

Researchers looked at health and genomic data for 52,000 participants from the UK biobank and were able to pinpoint 287 genetic regions linked to male baldness, the largest amount ever discovered.

For years, scientists have been trying to dispel the assumption that men inherit baldness solely from their mother's side. While androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness) is dependent on the androgen receptor, which is part of the X chromosome, there are also many other genes involved in the development of the condition.

However, this new study shows that male baldness may relate more to genes from the maternal side than previously thought.

"We identified hundreds of new genetic signals," Saskia Hagenaars, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh's Center for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology who co-authored the study, said in a press release.

"It was interesting to find that many of the genetic signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers."

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With this new information, researchers attempted to develop a formula that can predict whether a man will go bald based on certain genetic markers. While the formula is not yet completely accurate, it can be used to single out subgroups of the population that are at a much higher risk for hair loss than others.

"We are still a long way from making an accurate prediction for an individual's hair loss pattern," Riccardo Marioni, from the University of Edinburgh's Center for Genomic and Experimental Medicine and the study's principal investigator, said in the press release. "However, these results take us one step closer. The findings pave the way for an improved understanding of the genetic causes of hair loss."

Most of the hair structure and development genes identified in the study could be used in further research to find preventative drugs and treatments for male pattern baldness.

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