Treatment for baldness: Australian scientists discover key gene

Treatment for baldness: Australian scientists discover key gene

Australian scientists claim to have discovered a gene responsible for baldness in women which may lead to an effective treatment for hair loss.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital studied the DNA of almost 500 women who had lost at least 50 percent of hair on their scalp. Aged between 18 and 65, all the women who participated in the study, suffered severe hair loss, a condition that will affect up to 55 percent of Australian women, including up to one in 10 teenagers.

Compared with a group who were not going bald, the affected women were found to have a variant of the oestrogen receptor beta gene or ESR2, which seemed to make hair follicles more sensitive to the body’s oestrogen levels, The Age reported.

The gene variant’s link with hair loss was particularly strong in women over 40. Those who did not suffer baldness had a different variant of the same gene, which was less affected by oestrogen levels.

Rod Sinclair, one of the researchers, said the findings represented a paradigm shift in female pattern hair loss treatment.

Earlier, it was believed that high levels of oestrogen protected against baldness and promoted hair growth.

“Women often notice that their hair thickens up during pregnancy and they often experience hair loss after the delivery of the baby when they are breastfeeding, which is a low-oestrogen state, the same as the menopause stage,” Sinclair said.

“In situations where women are taking either the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy and they experience hair loss it may be advantageous to select low-oestrogen preparations to minimise the impact on hair,” he added.

The findings will be presented at the World Congress for Hair Research in Cairns next month, where experts from around the world will discuss the latest research on hair genetics and stem cell and developmental biology.