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April 14th, 2010
02:19 PM ET

Scientists may have found a root of hair loss

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Researchers believe they have identified a human gene that affects hair growth. The discovery could eventually lead to new treatments for male pattern baldness and even hair removal.

The team of investigators from Columbia, Rockefeller and Stanford Universities found that the gene, called APCDD1, causes a hair condition called hereditary hypotrichosis simplex. The condition is progressive and usually begins in childhood. The hair follicles shrink and narrow, causing thick hair on the head to be replaced with thin, fine hair, or "peach fuzz," a process called  hair follicle miniaturization.

The identification of the gene has given researchers  insight into the process of hair follicle miniaturization, which is most commonly observed in male pattern hair loss, said Angela M. Christiano, Ph.D., professor of dermatology and genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center, and lead author of the study. "It is important to note that while these two conditions share the same physiologic process, the gene we discovered for hereditary hypotrichosis does not explain the complex process of male pattern baldness," she said.

The gene is part of  a specific signaling pathway that scientists had found could turn on and turn off hair growth in mice, but a connection to human hair growth had not been made.  The gene is disrupted in certain families with hereditary hypotrichosis simplex, Christiano said,  showing that the pathway plays a key role in controlling human hair growth, as well as mice.

The investigators are excited because these findings demonstrate that if the pathway is manipulated, it could affect hair growth in humans, and therapies could be designed to restore hair or even remove unwanted hair.

"There are as many people suffering from unwanted, excessive hair growth as there are from hair loss. These represent significant unmet medical needs where new therapies are sorely needed,” noted Christiano.

The finding of this study can be found in the April 15th edition of Nature

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soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. dan

    yay! i want my hair back!

    April 14, 2010 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Roddy Kamuf

    Holy Moly, hopefully this puts an end to baldness and people can get their hair back without costly surgeries!

    April 14, 2010 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • James Blackwell

      Roddy, all that drug use is the cause of your hair loss.

      December 21, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
  3. Ivan

    while it is great that we have learned more about our genes, and are slowly answering questions in the field of science, i feel this article points out the negative things about our society (our obsessive view towards our image and our unhappiness with what we have). Bruce Willis is bad ass, in part because he is bald. i think we have forgotten what it is like to simply accept what we have and be happy

    April 14, 2010 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Chris

    I started loosing my hair at 20, finally I just shaved my head. I plan to never turn back. No more hair cuts, no more blow drying and no more shampoo. My wife likes it and I am happy with it. Even if I could grow it all back I doubt I would ever do it.

    April 14, 2010 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Isabella

    Is this going to address female hair loss as well? It's frustrating that most solutions, medicine focus on male hair loss, but it's far more traumatic for a woman to lose her hair than for a guy.

    April 14, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. deepwater

    So this gene is the "real" cause of baldness. And all this time I thought it was my rotten kids.....

    April 15, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Leo from East Texas

    Great ! i still have all of my hair. chalk one up for science. Hopefully i will be able to see many cures for ailments. in my lifetime. Science has been given a bad name here lately.We need more breakthroughs in medicine. Science let's get on a roll............

    April 15, 2010 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. gregory

    this is the best news I have heard for a long time I hope the cure can be found as soon as possible with a treatment involved for us who suffer baldness, thanks to those involved for doing the research well done gentlemen and thank you sincerley.....

    April 15, 2010 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. bobbymercado@gmail.com

    Pattern hair loss is epidemic and affects every race. Does this suggest that supposed ‘baldness influencing’ genes were acquired before humans spread out and evolve into different races tens of thousands of years ago?

    It seems. However, we find that baldness occurs among men in urbanized societies but NOT men in hunter gatherer communities or incidences only occur rarely and mildly in older men – indications of the insignificance of genetic traits.

    So do recently acquired traits or ‘mutated’ genes influence the development of hair loss? It seems, but it's 95% more likely that susceptible individuals are being exposed to environmental risk factors common in urbanized societies.

    True genetic abnormalities are often clearly discernible at birth and are rare conditions and less than 0.1% of the population would be affected. Are hereditary or genetic traits significant in the development of hair loss? No. Just like diabetes type 2, which was once thought to be influenced by genes just because it occurs among close relatives and family members, we now know genetic traits are insignificant in its development.

    For fifty years, genetics research has been based on the theory that ‘specific genes carry specific traits’. Bold promises were made that diseases will be a thing of the past after each gene is identified. It is one of the biggest blunders in scientific studies.

    April 15, 2010 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jim D

    Thank God, please hurry I am running out of time!

    April 15, 2010 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. C

    Exciting, though it is surprising we have not made much advancement in this area already. My significant other has hair nearly reaching his waist, and there is no way we are cutting it short–though he is starting to get thin hair. We are terrified of some hair regrowth products as they may initially cause hair loss–I think it's easier to deal with for short hair people. It took 10 years to get my significant other's hair this long. He also is a model. Hair loss is a depressing issue for a lot of people. You can say image doesn't mean anything, but we all want to look good. Whether it's good or not we all make judgments based on looks. I am looking forward to what science gives us. I hope for a cure to hair loss soon!

    April 15, 2010 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. gary

    This headline isnt accurate. The cause of hair loss/male pattern baldness in men is DHT. Its not as simple as isolating a gene. Like most other medical/scientific topics we want to think we know so much-but there is always much more we dont know.

    April 15, 2010 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. mary

    It would be wonderful if in the future they could supply everyone with a great full thick head of hair..As many of us have very thin, fine hair .And that can cause a lifetime of pain and frustration for many people also.

    April 15, 2010 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Younan Marketing And Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    My doctor told me lawyers were getting him to get medical lab files and other files because if he got them he wouldn't have to pay for them. but they charge me a fortune if i want to get the lab files of my own medical tests. i don't know how many doctors are doing this but i think practically all of you maybe are being run by racket research lawyer partners. then stealing litigation money as well to set up phoney credit unions and illegal bank accounts. this is all evidenced. there isn't anything i'm lying about. and thats in addition to direct spying on my office/home work and on my conversations with relatives and friends.

    April 15, 2010 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RML

    Men are not the only ones to have finer, thinner hair as they age.

    April 15, 2010 at 06:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jordan

    I found the root of hair loss a long time ago...women...haha.

    April 15, 2010 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Donna Badgley

    Wonderful... FOR MEN!!! How about someone announcing some HUGE breakthrough for WOMEN!! I'm one of those unfortunate Women who suffers from hair loss, after numerous attempts... to no avail... I've given up. The only item I have found to keep the follicle clear of excess Sebum is Aubrey Organics Calaguala Fern Shampoo and Leave-in Treatment. No more rotten peach head smell, either.

    April 15, 2010 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. in2deep

    Bald is beautiful! Who loves ya, baby!

    April 15, 2010 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Luis

    This article is about hair thinning in general, not only for male pattern baldness. If/when scientists work out the genetic engineering and find a way to prevent unwanted hair loss, it will benefit both male and female.
    As for the comment regarding society's obsession with image, all I can say is that while bald men may not look bad or are just simply accepted now because it's so common, I'm bald by the way, for me the bottom line is that shaving one's head should be an option and not a necessity brought on by male pattern baldness. And this problem is even more traumatic for women.
    I started shaving my head years ago and I like it, but it would be fun to have a full head of hair if I so wished...

    April 15, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jessica

    Wow...so it's not enough that we're still obssessed with our images, but science is focusing on it instead of on cancer or HIV/AIDS...I'm throughly disappointed.

    April 15, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Dennis

    Don't get too excited. They always find these genes and then you never hear of any groundbreaking cures for anything...

    April 15, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. John

    "i think we have forgotten what it is like to simply accept what we have and be happy" – IVAN

    Spoken like a man whos never sunburned his head...

    April 15, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Cindy

    Jessica @11:37 – oh get over yourself. Seriously. Do you honestly think there aren't scientists out there doing research on cancer and AIDS almost 24/7? And are those the only two medical issues allowed to be researched? You obviously have no idea how traumatic it can be for people, both men and women, to lose their hair. It may not personally affect me, but I'm grateful to the scientists and doctors who are researching the causes of baldness – as well as all the other issues that I'm sure you think are frivolous but other people would disagree with you on.

    April 15, 2010 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Amy

    Jessica, while I agree that this society is obsessed with image, you cannot make the assumption that all individuals wanting their hair back are obsessed with their image. You probably have no idea how devastating it can be (for a man, or a woman) to lose their hair. Start with someone who perhaps already suffers from a bit of low self-esteem, and then add hair loss to that as well. And I seriously doubt that scientists are slowing down on finding a cure for HIV just because some are working towards this cure. I'm willing to bet you have a full head of beautiful hair. You should count your blessings.

    April 15, 2010 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Joe

    Everyone should know by now the real cause of male pattern baldness is skull expansion. Look it up!

    April 15, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Josh

    Yes, I need to turn 'off' the hair gene in some places, and turn 'on' the hair gene in others. I hope such is possible.

    April 15, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. OUtland

    Where do I apply? I'll be a testing guinea pig! Want hair!

    April 15, 2010 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. C

    Please, it isn't jut vain dudes who want more hair. Woman also go bald, think about that folks – before you denounce this groundbreaking research.

    Good job scientists! Thank you!

    April 15, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Ken

    Jessica trust me, there are plenty of scientists around to research both cancer AND hair loss. It's not one or the other. My wife is a scientist and cancer survivor. If a company wants to develop a product for hair loss more power to them. Another thing... so many drugs we have today are around because companies were looking for cures for other ailments. Today's hair loss clinical trail could lead to tomorrow's prostate cancer cure.

    April 15, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Fred Follicle

    Ivan must be bald......

    April 15, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mike M

    I grow hair where I don't want it (ears back) and I don't grow hair where I want it (my head).

    April 15, 2010 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Laura

    I agree with Isabella. What about women?? Most, if not all guys can pull off a completely shaved head but women have to deal with the constant stares from EVERYONE as we painstakingly attempt to appear somewhat presentable. Unless you're a woman experiencing this you couldn't possibly understand the embarrassment and humiliation.

    @Jessica – Yes, HIV/AIDS and cancer are important and there is plenty of money going toward research for those things. But I also don't see anything wrong with trying to help people maintain their dignity and self esteem. I'm not asking to look like Angelina, I just don't want to be gawked at like a freak-show candidate. I'm only 39!

    April 15, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Gail

    I don't understand how reporting medical developments creates a negative atmosphere among some.

    April 15, 2010 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. alopecia

    Jessica: This breakthrough isn't important to you because it doesn't affect you. If you were a 25 year old woman, or ANY age, for that matter, and woke up to find your hair coming out in clumps, and had to wear wigs or hair pieces and had to draw on your eyebrows every single day, you'd be really thankful that people were still researching "image obsessed" things like hair. You try never going for a swim or dreading a windy day because you're convinced that everyone can tell your hair isn't really yours. This goes beyond being vain, it is something people struggle with, so don't dismiss it because you feel like it's not some big ticket research worthy of money.

    April 15, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Sekhar

    This is a very good news for lots of people. And hope the treatment would be affordable to a common man.

    April 15, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Jacque

    I have had alopecia for 26 years. The first 10 years were very painful as I searched for wigs that didn't look "wiggy". Then I moved to baseball caps, now I often opt to go bald in my own home and around friends, but still wear a wig out in the general public. It still hurts and that hurt will never completelty go away. It's never too late to find a cure, and bless them for trying.

    April 15, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Tanja

    Hopefully, this is good for both men and women!
    But if this is one of those studies ‘just for men’ – I think they should stop it now until they find ‘Viagra’ for women too.

    April 15, 2010 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Bald One

    some heads are perfect. others are covered with hair.

    April 15, 2010 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. swschrad

    Charles Kuralt nailed it years ago. "A thick head of hair is a waste of good hormones."

    April 15, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Mary

    Jessica: You act as if scientists are ONLY researching hair loss and not HIV/AIDs or cancer. Are you not aware that so much more money has been put into researching HIV/AIDS and and cancer? Just because we haven't found a cure yet does not mean that no one is working on it.

    In addition, not every scientist is trained to research HIV/AIDS or cancer. Every scientist has their own specialty.

    April 15, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. susan

    Interesting how many comments came up villifying the research because it reinforces an unhealthy societal obsession with appearance, and the angry responses from balding people saying that hair loss is traumatic and research should be done.
    Yet if this had been an article on obesity, the comments would have been all about an societal obsession with appearance in a different way. the same balding people are often the harshest on those who are overweight. And dont try to tell me baldies cant help it and fatties can, that is ignorant and fallacious. Its all genes, and we all need to get comfortable with the hand we are dealt, but its okay to look to science for hope and answers.

    April 15, 2010 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. kr

    isabella...to say that women are MORE traumatized by hair loss then men is insulting. Its just more socially accepted that men lose their hair. Ask any man if going bald bothers them and the ones that say no are lying. It would be great if a gene therapy could reverse what plauges many men and women for that matter.

    April 15, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Sherri

    I think this (loss of hair) is even more tragic in women. Not that it is not bad for men. I don't mean that, but men can shave their heads, as one poster said. As a female, I can't really do that. And a 56 year old female with thin/no hair is not considered distinguished, as a man may. Mine began after I stopped 5 years of HRT treatment. Rogaine is expensive and must be done every day, forever. I hope they find a 'fix' soon, for all of us 'hair impaired' folks.

    April 16, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. female of the species from OH

    Interesting that a few of you think that it is more traumatic for a woman to lose her hair than a man. I am not so convinced; it clearly boils down to the type and amount of hair loss, whether or not it can be easily disguised, and each person's level of accepting it. And I say that even though I have what is called female pattern baldness (evenly distributed loss of my hair in the crown area only; DHT-related) which I describe as a moderate loss amount. I think it is traumatic to both sexes, depending on the person, of course, because people deal with the hair loss differently. For me it is definitely traumatic and I am going to get a hair transplant in a few months, even despite this newfound scientific evidence in this article. I am one of the very few women who are eligible for hair transplant due to the type of my loss, so I'm going for it based on the knowledge we have TODAY! But I gotta say, I do love those shaved bald heads on guys...nothing wrong with it on the male of the species!!

    April 16, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. citizenUSA

    I'm not bald but my hairline is SLIGHTLY receeding in front. It's amazing to have a healthy hair growing a millionth of a centemeter away from one that decided to commit folicide.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Robin

    I have lived with Female pattern Baldness for the past 5 years. Also diagnosed as Alopecia Areata. As hard as it has been to look in the mirror somedays- I Love my wig it is soo easy. It has taken years off my look. People Love you for who you are. If you have the inner strength to move past the pain , you can and should live each day with an optimistic outlook. So most of the time I ignore it. I am divorced – get dates with very nicle ooking guys and if they really care – they can move past it. IF not you wouldn't want them in the first place.
    So I try not to focus on the bad part of all this. It is very sad if I dwell on it- but I have so many other things to be thankful for- You just got to keep on Trucking.
    I hope my positive attitude helps someone deal with their journey a little more easily.
    The fact that they have located the gene is great news for all who suffer from this horrible event, but in time, someday -maybe they can find a way to stop hair loss.

    April 16, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. steve

    For those bemoaning the vanity issue here (i.e. shouldn't we be studying cures for serious diseases other than hair loss) – there's good news: many discoveries in biological science end up being very related to and useful for each other. For example – the "hair loss gene" may turn out to be important in uncovering/understanding other biological pathways. More commonly a new technology, method, or way of thinking that was developed to uncover the hair loss gene goes on to be useful for many other applications. Although at the moment these connections are not yet apparent – and it does take time (and funding, intelligence and luck) the field of biology is rife with examples. And it may turn out that such connections would never have been made unless this hair loss gene was discovered. This is the nature of science.

    April 16, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Howscat

    My 17 year old daughter has alopecia since she was 14 months old. I hope reserchers and drug companies will be able to develop therapies so that if my daughter choose to try to have her hair grow back she can!

    April 19, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. JEN36

    I hope they find something for everyone. I joke about losing my hair, but I was the girl with all the hair. Very curly, very thick and I after I had my first child, it is all coming out. Very hard to hide it when you are a women. Very hard to look in the mirror and try to style your hair for work. Hard to look at all. Very depressing.

    April 19, 2010 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. swampthing wisconsin

    i think any information and/or benefits you can get from genetic research is great. many discoveries have been made because of incidental results of genetic studies. i also think it is great for the people, male and female who want or need a fuller head of hair. thankfully i am blessed with a full head of unmanageable hair, because i have had many stylists feel my skull and say it would not look very nice shaved.....

    April 20, 2010 at 03:07 | Report abuse | Reply
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