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Discovery of two genetic variants of the baldness gene

During a joint research conducted by McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. the investigators identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together are responsible for seven times the increase in the risk of male pattern baldness.
 With reference to male pattern baldness, it is estimated that a third of all men are affected by the age of 45, impacting the concerned individuals both socially and economically. Global figures reveal that medical therapy for male-pattern baldness recently surpassed $405 million worldwide whereas expenditures for hair transplantation in the United States alone exceeded $115 million (U.S.) in 2007. Androgenetic alopecia is the most common form of baldness in males where hair is lost in a well-defined pattern beginning above both temples, resulting in a distinctive M-shaped hairline. In addition, it is estimated that 80% of the cases are hereditary.
 Dr. Vincent Mooser of GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Brent Richards of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and the affiliated Jewish General Hospital (and formerly of King’s College), and Dr. Tim Spector of King’s College along with colleagues in Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands conducted a genome-wide association study of 1,125 Caucasian men, assessed with male pattern baldness. The study established two previously unknown genetic variants on chromosome 20 that substantially increased the risk of male pattern baldness. These results helped further confirm the findings in an additional 1,650 Caucasian men.

 Richards, an assistant professor in genetic epidemiology, has alleged that it can be therefore presumed that the same genetic variation may be responsible for causing male pattern baldness in non-caucasians also. However, this reasoning cannot be evidenced as no study has been conducted in those populations.
 Although, the results of this research can be termed as a scientific leap, it no where near means that a treatment or cure for male pattern baldness will be seen anytime soon.

 Richards has further opined that only a cause has been identified and that the actual treatment of male pattern baldness will require more research. Nevertheless, the researchers have successfully crossed the first hurdle because treatment for a condition can only be established after the cause has been identified.
 Spector of King’s College and director of the TwinsUK cohort study, has added that predicting future hair loss before its actual onset may lead to some unconventional therapies that would be more effective than treating late stage hair loss.

 In addition, Richards has mentioned that researchers have been aware of a genetic variant on the X chromosome that has been linked to male pattern baldness for a long time now.
 He has further elucidated that because of the genetic variant on the X chromosome it has been assumed that baldness is inherited from the mother’s side of the family. Nevertheless, nothing is so straight jacketed, and it has been noticed that not one gene but several genes are responsible for causing male pattern baldness. Until recently, these other genes were undetected. Therefore, if both the risk variants on chromosome 20 and the unrelated known variant on the X chromosome is present, your risk of becoming bald increases sevenfold.
 It is even more startling is that 14%of the total population, that is one in every seven men possess both he risk variants.


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