BONN, Germany — More effective treatments for male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, could soon be on the horizon after German scientists discovered new genetic links to hair loss among men. Male pattern baldness is known for its classic horseshoe-shaped shedding of hair, which is the most common form of hair loss for men.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Bonn (UKB) have always been intrigued by the hereditary factors that cause this condition. While many common genetic markers have been associated with male pattern baldness in the past, the significance of rare genetic variants has remained largely unexplored.
Genetic markers can be thought of as “signposts” in our DNA that might indicate a predisposition to certain conditions. Some of these markers are common and well-studied, but others are rare and not as well-understood.
By analyzing the genetic sequences of 72,469 male participants from the UK Biobank, researchers identified five genes linked to hair loss. This finding not only reinforces the role of previously identified genes but also introduces entirely new ones into the fold.
“Such analyses are more challenging as they require large cohorts, and the genetic sequences must be captured base by base, e.g., through genome or exome sequencing of affected individuals,” says study first author Sabrina Henne, a doctoral student at the Institute of Human Genetics at the UKB and the University of Bonn, in a university release.
The unique genetic codes of these rare variations might appear in just a handful of individuals or even just one person. To navigate this, the team used advanced statistical methods that group variations based on the genes they appear in.
One such method they employed was the sequence kernel association test (SKAT), a recognized technique for identifying links with rare genetic variants. They also used GenRisk, a tool developed at the University of Bonn.
Researchers highlighted five genes – EDA2R, WNT10A, HEPH, CEPT1, and EIF3F – that showed connections with male-pattern baldness. Of these, EDA2R and WNT10A had previously been eyed as potential culprits based on common genetic variations, but this study reinforces their role. The study suggests the gene HEPH, which hadn’t been a previous suspect, might also play a part in hair loss.
Furthermore, the discovery of CEPT1 and EIF3F as linked genes is groundbreaking. These genes had not been previously connected to male-pattern hair loss. Their involvement offers a fresh perspective, especially since they have roles in hair growth.
Another intriguing revelation from the study is that genes linked to rare inherited skin and hair conditions might also influence male pattern baldness. These findings have stirred hopes that a clearer understanding of hair loss’s genetic causes might soon lead to better prediction methods and more effective treatments.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
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