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Genetic Study Confirms Male Pattern Baldness Not an Isolated Trait

Short-Sighted Marketing Ploy Undermines Researchers’ Important Work

Another study examining the genes linked to male pattern baldness has been published. This one is titled, “Meta-analysis identifies novel risk loci and yields systematic insights into the biology of male-pattern baldness,” from researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany. Published in the journal Nature Communications, the new study support the idea that evidence of male pattern baldness could be an early indicator that an individual could have a higher likelihood of certain illnesses later in life.

The study analyzed the genetic material of over 22,000 men of European descent from seven different countries. Nearly 11,000 of the subjects had early onset male pattern baldness. The rest were used as a control group. Dr. Stefanie Heilmann-Heimbach and Prof. Markus Nöthen, Director of the University’s Institute of Human Genetics reported that their analysis identified 63 genetic markers that are related to early onset male pattern baldness. They claim that 23 had not been reported previously.

Arocha Hair Restoration last wrote about Dr. Heilmann-Heimbach last August in the article, “Are Gene-Hunting Scientists Getting Close to Solving the Mystery of Male Pattern Baldness?” At that time, we reported on Dr. Heilmann-Heimbach’s progress in identifying specific genes that are most likely involved in male pattern baldness.

Her latest study states that some of the 63 genetic regions and pathways they’ve identified may represent, “promising targets for the development of novel therapeutic options for MPB.” However, the researchers seem most enthusiastic about the overlap they discovered between male pattern baldness and other traits.

We corresponded with Dr. Heilmann-Heimbach via email and here’s what she shared with us:

“What I personally find fascinating about our findings (and genetic research in male pattern baldness in general) is the fact, that that (scientists have identified) more than 100 regions in the human genome that play a role in male pattern baldness development and explain more than 40 percent of the phenotypic variation in MPB. Another important aspect is of course the overlapping genetic associations with numerous other human traits and disorders, which highlight the fact that male pattern baldness is not an isolated trait.”

 Somewhat comically and certainly in our view unfortunately, the University of Bonn’s public relations team hijacked this study in hopes of creating some online buzz. If you do a search for this study you will find very little of the information we’ve outlined above. What you will find is a lot of sensational headlines about the link between male pattern baldness and an individual’s height.

In the study, the link between men of shorter stature and male pattern baldness warranted less than a single sentence. However, the University of Bonn’s news release announcing the study played up that angle with the sensational headline, “Why do shorter men go bald more often?

Even if their intent was to simply get people to read about the research, the marketers at the University of Bonn should be ashamed because the real result was they elicited giggles. The sensational headlines distracted from far more important findings from the research and caused Dr. Heilmann-Heimbach to have to spend her time responding to silly questions. For instance, in the Huffington Post article, ”Short, White Men More Likely To Go Bald,” she said researchers did not set out to find a link with height or quantify the relative risk of baldness associated with different statures.

In our email correspondence, Dr. Heilmann-Heimbach wrote that the connection to height may have broader implications:

“These data indicate that male pattern baldness genetic research may not only benefit the understanding of healthy hair growth and hair loss, but also the understanding of the underlying biology of these associated traits and may eventually have implication for the repurposement of drugs and the evaluation of male pattern baldness as (additional) prognostic marker.”

All of that aside, these latest findings add to the scientific community’s depth of understanding of the genetic underpinnings of male pattern baldness. Earlier this year, researchers from The University of Edinburgh reported on another big-data project that analyzed genetic information from more than 52,000 male participants in the UK Biobank. That study pinpointed 287 genetic regions linked to hair loss in men and tinkered with the concept of creating a predictive model that could identify individuals genetically predisposed to experience hair loss.

We’ll keep watching as more exciting discoveries are made.

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