April 14, 2010 -- A gene responsible for a rare hair loss disorder may also
play an important role in male pattern baldness, according to a new study.
Researchers have identified a genetic mutation involved in hypotrichosis
simplex, a hereditary hair loss disorder that affects less than 200,000
Americans. The disorder causes hair follicle miniaturization, a process in
which hair follicles shrink and narrow, and thick hair is replaced by fine,
downy "peach fuzz" hair.
But researchers say that the same process is also a key component of male
"The identification of this gene underlying hereditary hypotrichosis simplex
has afforded us an opportunity to gain insight into the process of hair
follicle miniaturization, which is most commonly observed in male pattern hair
loss or androgenetic alopecia,"says researcher Angela M.
Christiano, PhD, professor of dermatology and genetics and development at
Columbia University Medical Center, in a news release.
The study, published in Nature, highlights the role of a mutated
version of the gene APCDD1 in hair follicle biology.
Previous research has already linked the gene to other hair loss disorders,
but in this study researchers found the mutated gene inhibits a signaling
pathway involved in hair growth.
By learning more about this pathway, known as the Wnt pathway, researchers
say the discovery may lead to new and improved treatments for male pattern
baldness and other hair loss disorders.
"We have at last made a connection between Wnt signaling and human hair
disease that is highly significant," says Christiano. "And unlike commonly
available treatments for hair loss that involve blocking hormonal pathways,
treatments involving the Wnt pathway would be non-hormonal, which may enable
many more people suffering from hair loss to receive such therapies."