If you ask a million people a whole bunch of questions and then see how their answers correlate to their DNA, you can spot patterns that may help explain everything from their love of chocolate to their propensity for hair loss. The greater the number of people taking part, the richer the picture becomes.
It’s an ethos that billion-dollar US-based genetic testing company 23andMe has fully grasped, and their data could one day prove useful in a multitude of different fields. According to a recent article in Business Insider, right now the Google-backed company can already tell people if they carry potentially dangerous variants for things like sickle cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis.
Data from an ever-expanding pool
In the future, and with faster computers and an ever-expanding pool of participants from which to extract data, the company might be able to discover why some people are more predisposed to certain hair loss conditions with a genetic link. Most obviously these include androgenetic alopecia – more commonly known as both Male Pattern Baldness and the women’s equivalent, Female Pattern Hair Loss – but also encompasses the various forms of Alopecia Areata, the autoimmune disorders which leads to sudden hair loss.
The more doctors know about the genes that play a part in the onset of these types of conditions, the better. In the long term, this kind of information could mean that hair loss prevention may be more popular among those whose genetic analysis has revealed active propensities.
In the case of Alopecia Areata, which remains a highly enigmatic disorder, the cause of which is still unknown although genetic links are believed to factor, this information could prove especially valuable. When paired with data from the new dedicated bio banks in both the UK and in America, these case studies could provide critical insights that could potentially help researchers to finally understand the mechanics of why alopecia areata occurs – and can recur – in some people but not others.
23andMe charges £125 to analyse the DNA contained in a tube of a customer’s saliva. According to Business Insider, more than 1.2 million people have paid for the test, and the majority have allowed their information to be retained for research. The company is spotting new patterns all the time: this year they found a number of genetic aberrations that seem to be tied to a heightened risk of developing a Major Depressive Disorder.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the question of ethics. While predictive medicine in the form of a lifestyle changes or preventative medicines seems to be morally acceptable, physically tweaking someone’s genes is a shade more problematic.
But designer babies are not the only logical conclusion – a new technology called CRISPR is allowing scientists to modify cells in a more acceptable way. Digital Trends recently reported on a team in China who were using CRISPR to inject a patient with modified cells that had been engineered to attack cancer. In the near future, CRISPR could be a way to “turn off” unwanted genetic traits such as pattern hair loss in men and women.
At present, there is no cure for genetic hair loss – nor for alopecia areata. There are, however, effective treatments which have been shown to produce significant regrowth results in many cases.
For female and male pattern baldness, a personalised hair loss treatment course can generally be followed from as soon as signs of hair thinning start to appear. This means that if advice is sought early on, it is possible to take proactive steps to prevent hair loss from becoming noticeable to others by using clinically-proven products to stabilise shedding and promote regrowth. These can also be used alongside additional hair growth boosters to ensure that the scalp is properly cared for and the hair has the best possible chance of healthy growth.
Alopecia areata treatment can also help to regrow hair in people with patchy hair loss from this disorder. Belgravia’s approach includes using convenient topical applications of high strength minoxidil in order to help accelerate the hair growth process.
As you can see, there are already effective ways to “stop nature in its tracks” – just like future genetic treatments may one day be able to do for – so if you are currently concerned about losing your hair, contact a hair loss specialist for personal advice.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.