Researchers Discover New Genetic Link to Baldness
A new genetic link to hair loss has been discovered by German researchers led by Felix Brockschmidt of the University of Bonn, a finding revealed in Nature Genetics. Many men and women experience hair loss with age and this new finding, partially financed by pharmaceutical giant Glaxo SmithKline, identifies another gene marker for alopecia.
"The first gene known until now is on the X chromosome," Brockschmidt said. "It is the most important for alopecia [hair loss]. We are sure that this new locus we found is the second most important."
The discovery could open the way for genetic tests to single out men most likely to lose hair as they age, Brockschmidt said. "Screening for the X chromosome locus and also for this new one can possibly show the risk of male pattern baldness," he said.
While this finding may or may not lead to a cure for pattern baldness, at the very least it will probably aid in more accurate genetic screening tests. Identifying the gene is the first step toward developing preventative or curative measures.
The work done in Germany paralleled a study led by researchers at Kings College London, with the results of that study differing slightly. It included 1,125 men assessed for male pattern baldness. Two regions on chromosome 20 were found to be associated with the condition. And a further study of another 1,650 men found a sevenfold increase in the incidence of baldness in the one in seven men carrying variants in both the X chromosome and chromosome 20 regions.
The new results "are certainly putting us closer to a genetic test for developing alopecia," said Dr. George Cotsarelis, director of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
But, he added, a negative reading on such a test would be more informative than a positive result showing the presence of the baldness-related genes.
"If you don't have the genes, there is a negative predictive value of 96 percent," he said. "If you do have the genes, there is a positive predictive value of about 14 percent."