Gene variant turns Caucasian men bald

October 13th, 2008 - 3:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Oct 13 (IANS) Researchers have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that increases the risk of baldness sevenfold among males, according to a study. About a third of all men are affected by the ’shiny pate syndrome’ by the of 45. Expenditures for hair transplantation in the US alone exceeded $115 million in 2007, while global revenues for medical therapy for male-pattern baldness recently surpassed $405 million.

Male 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 percent of cases are hereditary.

This study was conducted by Vincent Mooser of GlaxoSmithKline, Brent Richards of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and Tim Spector of King’s College. Along with colleagues in Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands, 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, according to a McGill University release.

“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 percent of the total population!”

These results were published on Sunday in Nature Genetics.

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