The largest genome-wide study of baldness identified over 250 novel genetic variants involved in its onset. Male pattern baldness is a major source of anxiety and depression among men and has been linked to serious cardiovascular diseases and prostate cancer.

Hair loss or alopecia, as science puts it, is considered one of the biggest causes of psychosocial distress among men and women today. A full set of hair is becoming almost synonymous with good looks and success, and a thinning hairline puts men at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression then ever before. The lesser-known fact about alopecia, however, is that it´s actually an autoimmune dermatological disease that we know little about, that has been linked to much more serious diseases like prostate cancer, coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction.

Although hair loss has long been perceived as hereditary, UK-based researchers now pinpointed specific genes believed to be tightly connected with its onset. They tested over 52,000 male participants in the largest cohort study on baldness ever carried out. The participants were aged from 40 to 69 and ranged from no hair loss to extreme hair loss. This allowed them to identify over 250 independent genetic loci associated with severe hair loss, an entire order of magnitude more than were previously known. They reported their findings in the journal PLOS Genetics.

“We identified hundreds of new genetic signals. It was interesting to find that many of the genetics signals for male pattern baldness came from the X chromosome, which men inherit from their mothers” said lead researcher Saskia Hagenaars.

The researchers´ findings, once validated, will likely push our understanding of hair loss to the next level, in a time where depression and anxiety are at an all-time high. It may also help us better understand some of the major health risks connected to male pattern balding, as well as offer an effective approach to future polygenetic disease marker prediction.

Learn more about the molecular mechanisms involved in balding in the video below:


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna