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Unlocking the Genetics of Hair Loss

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: Scientists are using advances in genetic research in their search for better ways to treat hair loss. It turns out that the genetics of hair loss is more complicated than many people think.

ANGELA CHRISTIANO, PhD: There is a myth surrounding the inheritance of male pattern hair loss that's been around for almost a 100 years. The myth states that you inherit male pattern hair loss either from your mother's father or your father's mother. This actually dates back to a paper that was published in 1916.

The truth is that male pattern hair loss is actually a complex genetic trait where you inherit different combinations of several genes from both parents and under the influence of the right environmental factors they bring about the disease.

The approach to studying a complex trait is much more difficult because we need large numbers of families with many affected individuals. So it's a massive-scale, genetic search, compared to how we find single genes.

ANNOUNCER: Researchers have begun to use something called a gene chip to study many genes at once.

ANGELA CHRISTIANO, PhD: One of the most powerful tools of modern genetics is known as a gene chip or microarray. In contrast to looking for one gene at a time, the microarray lets us look at global changes in gene expression, 12,000 to 30,000 all at one time. This greatly multiplies the effectiveness of which we can study conditions like male pattern hair loss.

ANNOUNCER: And with the knowledge of how genes contribute to hair loss, scientists say they will be better able to develop drugs to combat baldness.

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