For most men, the first clue that they have been “genetically pre-selected” for hair loss is when they see thinner-looking hair in the mirror. Science, however, is inching us ever forward to the day when we will know what’s waiting in the wings simply by reading a lab report.
A man’s propensity for Male Pattern Baldness is genetically predetermined, meaning he will either lose hair to MPB or he won’t – unless he takes steps to intervene – depending on whether or not he has inherited an active ‘balding gene’. At present, it’s not possible to state with any degree of certainty if male pattern hair loss is waiting in the wings until the shower drain starts to regularly clog up with hair.
Given that the human genome was only mapped out just 14 years ago, our knowledge of genetics has far from reached maturity, and new discoveries are being made all the time. One of the most recent findings could help to answer one of the most frequently asked questions here at Belgravia – “Will I go bald like my dad?” – by predicting which men will be affected by hereditary hair loss.
Predicting male pattern baldness via DNA
The University of Edinburgh has released its findings from a genetic hair loss study which was published in the PLOS Genetics journal. This looked at the data of more than 52,000 men aged between 40 and 70 who had submitted their DNA to the UK Biobank, a national and international health resource which contains the genetic information of more than 500,000 volunteer participants. These anonymous individuals have also submitted detailed information about themselves, including – in some cases – details about their hair loss.
The Edinburgh team focused on 52,874 men who had all responded to a question about their hair. By looking at their DNA, they were able to identify hundreds of genetic variants which were common to the men with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss). Interestingly, more than 36,000 respondents reported some degree of hair loss, compared to 16,724 men who said they had none at all. While it might be the case that people with hair loss felt more inclined to answer this question (rather than ignore it), it is possible that this data also shows the rate of genetic hair loss among British men aged between 40 and 70 to be around 70 per cent.
Given the most commonly quoted figures, which state that by 35 years of age “two-thirds of men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, and by the age of 50 approximately 85 per cent of men have significantly thinning hair. Approximately 25 per cent of men who suffer with male pattern baldness begin the painful process before they reach the age of 21″, this figure is higher than was previously thought. It is worth noting, however, that these original statistics were provided in around 2004 by a US source, the American Hair Loss Association. Recent research has since indicated that the UK does have higher levels of hair loss than the US, and in fact has the fifth highest level of male pattern baldness worldwide, with the USA just behind in sixth place.
The Scottish researchers say they have identified more than 250 independent, novel genetic correlates of male pattern hair loss. While they admit that these findings still represent a rather crude way of determining who is and who isn’t genetically predisposed towards Male Pattern Baldness, they say that those men with the greatest number of matches to the 250+ identified genetic correlates had the highest chances of reporting baldness. Fifty-eight-per cent of those who were in the top 10 per cent in terms of matching genetic markers reported moderate to severe hair loss.
Preventing hair loss
The implications of the team’s findings are twofold. Firstly, by understanding exactly which parts of the genetic code cause hair to fall out, scientists will ultimately have a better idea about how to create drugs which may turn these off. This is certainly an area already being investigated for heading off other health concerns, since the 2015 CRISPR gene-editing breakthrough.
Secondly, men who can state with a degree of certainty that they are genetically predisposed towards baldness can take preventative measures using existing, clinically-proven Male Pattern Baldness treatment products. Indeed, many Belgravia clients already do use treatments as a form of hair loss prevention, whether because they believe baldness would be damaging to their career or image, or simply because MPB is widespread in their family and it is not the look they want.
Hair loss treatment courses featuring clinically-proven medications licensed by the MHRA and approved by the FDA, can be followed from the first signs of thinning or receding – often before any shedding becomes apparent to anyone else.
Following a consultation, during which medical suitability is assessed as well as the level and pattern of shedding, recommendations for treatments and, where appropriate, supplementary hair growth supporting products, can be made based on the specialist’s findings.
When treatment is started early on in the balding process, it can be used to prevent further hair loss and to promote regrowth subtly. It can then be used on an on-going basis to maintain the hair in a low-key and convenient way, for those who prefer to keep such things discreet.
In cases where the hair loss is more advanced when treatment is first sought, it can take longer for results to become noticeable and the difference, though gradual, can be more obvious. Only in cases where the thinning is so pronounced that it has turned to actual baldness – where the skin takes on a smooth, shiny appearance – is hair loss treatment unlikely to be suitable. This is because it is a sign that the hair follicles have died and are therefore no longer open to stimulation.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.