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Baldness: 6 New Gene Discoveries

6 Gene Variants Linked to Baldness; Findings May Lead to New Treatments
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 13, 2008 -- Scientists have discovered six gene variants, all on the same chromosome, that are linked to male-pattern baldness.

Those findings, published in the advance online edition of Nature Genetics, may provide some new leads for researchers developing new treatments for baldness.

"Clearly, most men know if they are bald or not, but early prediction before hair loss starts may lead to some interesting therapies that are more effective than treating late-stage hair loss," researcher Tim Spector, a professor at King's College London, says in a news release.

The new discoveries come from two studies, which together included more than 3,400 men and women in Western Europe. The researchers compared the genes of people with and without male-pattern baldness.

One study identified a gene variant that, when accompanied by another baldness gene variant on the androgen receptor gene, drove the odds of male-pattern baldness seven times higher. One man in seven has both of those gene variants, according to the researchers, who included Spector. That study was funded in part by drug company GlaxoSmithKline; one of the researchers (not Spector) is a GlaxoSmithKline employee.

The study flagged five other gene variants that are associated with male-pattern baldness and are on the same chromosome as the variant found by Spector and colleagues.

No one knows yet what those gene variants do or how they affect baldness. Figuring that out could inspire new treatments, the researchers note.

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