Genetic Hair Loss

Genetic Hair Loss

Hair thinning and balding typically comes from genetics. If someone from your intermediate family (cousins, uncles, aunts, mother, father, siblings etc) is bald or exhibits balding traits you too could be at risk. Some studies show that 80% of balding is genetics. A key gene could stem from your father or maternal grandfather.  Dr. Anil Shah and Dr. Sameea Chughtai are experts in not just hair tranplantation but treat a variety of patients in the Chicagoland area and beyond in understanding the root cause of their hair loss.  While currently gene therapy is not a treatment for hair loss, understanding genetics of hair loss and various conditions can help plan your treatment and its success.

Is there a specific gene for hair loss?

As new studies arise medical advances have found a small region on chromosome 20 called 20p11 that corresponds with balding. If this chromosome is present amongst a patient’s DNA this could explain people who exhibit male pattern baldness even through their mom’s father still has a full head of hair.  Hair loss is considered polygenetic so there are more genes ready to be mapped.

How does hair loss inherit?

Hair loss is polygenetic.  One mode of inheritance is through the X gene.  Men pass their Y gene to their sons and their X to their daughters.  If women have the balding gene, their sons will have the bald genes half the time.  (Their is a 50% chance of a child getting one of the X’s from their mother).  This balding gene has also been called the AR gene.

Can you change your genes?

Actually you can sort of change your genetic destiny with a new topic called epigenetics.  While this has been well studied how diet and exercise can change your risk for heart disease, specific information on hair loss is still not known.  Some patients have noticed improvement with changing nutrition (i.e. Vivisical), lifestyle changes.

How about gene therapy?

Gene therapy is when your genes are changed in your body.  Examples of gene therapy used currently in medicine are rare today.  The first example of successful gene therapy was in 1990 by Dr. Anderson who helped give temporary improvement to a patient with a severe immune deficiency.  Current examples can be seen in patients with X-linked granulomatous disease,  beta-thalaseemia, some leukemias and even color blindness in dogs.  All of these conditions are limited to readily identifiable genetic conditions isolated to single mutations.  Since baldness is a complex genetic issue it seems that gene therapy may not be a easily treated as other genetic disorders.

I have hair loss, will my child have hair loss?

Even a geneticist can not determine the pattern of hair loss.  Their appears to be a some maternal link to baldness (hence the adage look at your mother’s fathers head), but hair loss is complex and involves a polygenetics as well as environmental hair loss.

Is hair loss contagious?

There are some infectious causes of hair loss and environmental causes.  An infectious cause of hair loss is rare so it is safe to say that “baldness is not contagious”.

What are some other causes of hair loss?

The medical term for hair loss is alopecia.  Androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) as discussed has a partial genetic cause.  Alopecia areata is a less common loss of hair and has been identified with 8 genes which can manifest.  Alopecia areata can maniest in several different ways but typically begins with patchy loss of hair.  Some patients will have total loss of hair of the body which is called alopecia areata universalis or head which is called alopecia totalis.  It is important to have physicians trained in diagnosis of genetic, medical, and other causes of hair loss such as Dr. Chughtai and Shah to help patients understand their hair loss which is the first step in successful treatment.

Is there a genetic test for hair loss?

Their is a test called the HairDx test which claims to be present in more than 95% of men.  It locates the AR gene (called the Androgen receptor) and lets them know the chance of going bald by the age of 40.  Women can also get a hair loss score termed a CAG score which will help diagnose hair loss.  The HairDx test costs about $249 and can be a useful adjunct to young hair transplant patients in planning future hair loss.  Keep in mind that hair loss is not isolated to 1 gene and is polygenetic and environmental and currently their is not a single test to diagnose.  Furthermore, many men have a degree of hair loss (i.e. temple hair loss, crown, etc) which does not make hair loss as simple as bald or not bald.