We know that for the majority of men and a large proportion of women who suffer from hair loss, the cause is genetic. As science progresses and genetic testing becomes more advanced, will more people want to know if hair loss is written in their genes?
Doctors might soon be offered discounted scans of their own DNA by a leading genomics company, to help them be better prepared for using genetic information in patient care. The consumer genetics service 23andMe, backed by Google, could be launching a cut-price version of its $400 (£240) test, for medical professionals, to teach them how to interpret genomic data that their patients can access through a home DNA testing kit, purchased with the click of a button.
Presently, doctors receive little specialist training in interpreting genetic tests that assess a person’s inherited risk of developing certain diseases and conditions. 23andMe’s genotyping service examines 550,000 of the 6 billion letters in the human genome for variants that are known to affect the chances of developing 116 diseases and traits, from baldness to bowel cancer.
Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s co-founder and chief executive, aims to overcome the concerns of skeptical doctors. Critics of genotyping services say that the results produce an incomplete picture of risk that can confuse and mislead an individual.
Leonora Doclis, senior hair loss specialist at The Belgravia Centre, explains more about genetic coding in relation to hair loss: “There was a lot of excitement at the discovery of the Sox21 gene. Scientists found that removing this gene caused total hair loss in mice and it was thought the discovery of Sox21 might bring us a step closer to finding a cure for baldness. However this concept does not necessarily apply to human hair loss.”
Doclis adds, “Prior to the discovery of Sox21, scientists found out about the aromatase gene (CYP19A1). To date the discovery of these genes only proved that genetic hair loss is polygenic. This means that there is more than one gene that causes hair loss. Discovering all the genes will definitely bring us closer to coming up with a cure for hair loss.”
Even if we find all the genes that cause hair loss, Doclis says that individual factors such as lifestyle and health also need to be considered as these play a role on the severity and progression rate of genetic hair loss.
While the debate over genetic testing continues, when it comes to baldness, it is possible to take preventative action with proven treatments. Minoxidl and Propecia have been licensed by the MHRA and ‘FDA-approved’ for the treatment of hair loss in the UK and USA respectively.
The team of experts at The Belgravia Centre has many years experience diagnosing and successfully treating genetic hair loss in both men and women. We are happy to offer a free consultation to assess the hair and discuss treatment. To book an appointment, please call 020 7730 6666 or message the centre. For a consultation via the website please complete the online diagnostic form and a treatment advisor will be in touch.