15 Feb 2017

Predicting male pattern baldness

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:20 pm on 15 February 2017

A new study has identified genes that could help predict if you will go bald.

A study of 52,000 men has found the genetic markers that help predict the odds of losing your locks.

Male pattern baldness is the most common type of hair loss in men, and this is the largest genetic study of hair loss to date. 

Genetics of Male Pattern Baldness

Genetics of Male Pattern Baldness Photo: supplied

Riccardo Marioni, from the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, is the study’s principal investigator.

He told Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan previously strongest link between genes and baldness pointed to the X chromosomes which men get from their mothers.

But the new study, Dr Marioni, says shows that there are actually many genes, that are linked to hair loss that comes from other chromosomes.

“It is not just down to the genes you get your mum, your dad contributes as well.”

He says there was nearly 300 independent genetic areas that are associated with baldness.

The study was able to identify and then predict that if an individual’s genetic risk of baldness was in the lowest half of the overall group, only one in six reported severe hair loss but those with a genetic risk in the top 10 percent around six out of 10 reported moderate to severe hair loss.

However, it was still very hard to test and see if on an individual level who was going to go bald.

“So for example, you could have an extremely high genetic risk score for baldness but just get lucky and end up with a full head of hair for your entire life.

“Likewise at the other end of the spectrum you could have a very low genetic risk for baldness but just be unlucky and end up with severe hair loss.”

Despite this newfound knowledge researchers still don’t know what the mechanism causes baldness and there is still a way to go before there is a treatment.

Get the new RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)