Male pattern baldness is by far the most common reason why men experience hair loss. It usually begins in the 30s, but it can start as early as the late teens, and the chances of being affected by it increase with age. It is estimated that around 70% of men have thinning hair to some extent by the time they are in their 50s.

The first signs normally appear as hair loss or thinning on the crown, followed by the temples and a generally receding hairline. It is a hereditary condition, meaning that it is passed down through the genes of family members. If a man’s close male relatives such as a father, brother, or uncle have male pattern baldness, they are more likely to experience it as well.

Medical Life Sciences News reports that the most research into the genetic basis of the condition has focused on common genetic variants, mainly related to the androgen receptor gene. However, researchers at the Institute of Human Genetics at the UKB and the University of Bonn have recently carried out an analysis of rare variants.

First author Sabrina Henne explained: “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.”

The research involved analysing genetic sequences from 72,469 male UK Biobank participants. It found an association between male pattern hair loss and rare genetic variants in five genes.

Corresponding author PD Dr. Stefanie Heilmann-Heimbach explained: “That is why we apply gene-based analyses that first collapse variants on the basis of the genes in which they are located. Our study provides further evidence that these two genes play a role, and that this occurs through both common and rare variants.”

Sabrina Henne added: “However, HEPH itself has never been considered as a candidate gene. Our study suggests that it may also play a role. The genes CEPT1 and EIF3F are located in genetic regions that have not yet been associated with male-pattern hair loss.”

“They are thus entirely new candidate genes, and we hypothesize that rare variants within these genes contribute to the genetic predisposition. HEPH, CEPT1, and EIF3F represent

highly plausible new candidate genes, given their previously described role in hair development and growth.”

It is hoped that the new discoveries will eventually lead to a deeper understanding of male pattern hair loss and enable a wider range of treatments to be developed. Currently, the condition can be treated or managed with over the counter medications such as minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia).

These treatments are best started as soon as the first signs of male pattern baldness occur. If the hair follicles have already died and the scalp is completely bald, then they will not be effective.

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