You may have read that scientists at Bonn and Dusseldorf Universities have discovered a gene associated with male pattern baldness.
The discovery indicates that genetic hair loss can be passed down through the paternal (father’s) side of the family. The same research team discovered a gene that can cause hair loss to be inhereted through the maternal (mother’s) side which explained why men’s hair loss frequently reflects the person’s grandfather on their mother’s side of the family tree. I am a perfect example of this – my grandfather on my mother’s side was completely bald by his mid-thirties. I believe I would have gone the same way but luckily, at the age of 26 I have now been using treatment successfully for almost 6 years.
Although these genetic discoveries are scientifically interesting, they make no difference to how we treat male pattern baldness today, and probably won’t for many years, if ever.
What they’ve discovered is a gene that occurs more frequently in a sample of 300 bald men. It’s not clear how the 500,000 gene ‘positions’ they checked were chosen. Wikipedia reports the human genome to contain over 3 billion DNA base pairs, so the 500,000 that they checked seem like a tiny sample of possible genes, which leads to the question “are these the only genes that affect hair loss?” It’s possible that hair loss is inherited in a rather more complex way than the simple blue eyes vs brown eyes model taught in schools.
We are not sure, either, how that knowledge might be used therapeutically. The technology to change someone’s DNA isn’t in use yet and would certainly require serious moral consideration and governance. And would anyone seriously want to select their children based on their ability to grow hair or not?
I believe that if way down the line, gene altering treatment did come about for hair loss, most would still opt to use the proven preventative treatments that are already available. The current treatments can already stop hair loss and thicken the hair, it’s just important that the hair loss is tackled relatively early and the correct treatment combinations are used. You can find more information on the medically proven treatments here – proven treatments for hair loss.