The Genetic Roots of Male Hair Loss

Baldness is the source of much misery for millions of men throughout the United States. While you might have suspected that baldness runs in families, the genetic factors behind baldness might be more complex than once thought.

Mothers, Fathers and a Lack of Hair

Two hundred and eighty-seven – if a team of English researchers are correct, that’s the number of genes that could be responsible for male pattern baldness. The authors came to this conclusion after pouring over DNA data from over 52,000 male volunteers.

Using this genetic information, the study found that some men might go bald not due to their fathers, but due to genes inherited from their mother’s side of the family. Saskia Hagenaars, a student contributor to the study, stated that “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.”

Some highlights of the study include:

• Roughly 12,000 men lost only slight amounts of hair, whereas moderate hair loss was documented in 14,000 men.
• About 9,800 men were unlucky enough to have severe hair loss.
• Men with relatively few of the 287 hair-loss genes were more likely to keep their hair. Specifically, only 14 percent of participants in this grouping went bald, while about four in ten suffered no hair loss whatsoever.
• In contrast, hair loss afflicted nearly six in ten of those with the greatest preponderance of hair-loss genes.

The journal PLoS Genetics published the study in a recent issue. Senior author Riccardo Marioni stated that science is “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 hair loss.”

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