Where Do Bald Genes Come From?
Genetics is the fascinating study of human DNA, how traits are inherited from our ancestors, and the secrets of biological expression. Areas of focus include physical appearance, personality characteristics, and disposition to certain ailments and diseases.
The study of hair loss includes a bit of everything from genetic studies, including phenotypes, pathology, and hormone regulation. In other words, genes play a clear role in pattern balding, but we still need definitive answers.
To reduce it all to simple questions, we ask, “where do bald genes come from,” and “what can we know for sure?” Let’s find out if there’s really a singular “balding gene,” or whether the situation is more complex than meets the eye.
What Gene Causes Balding?
To say that balding is indeed 100% genetic would be an overstatement, according to the latest research science in fields like dermatology and hair restoration. But is there one “make or break” gene that causes people to lose hair more than others?
Scientists have proposed several genetic pathways that lead to balding, but it’s the AR gene that shows the most promise and significance in leading research circles.
The AR gene is the blueprint for the body’s androgen receptors, which facilitate a wide range of physical and sexual development traits, primarily in men. Although these receptors don’t directly create testosterone and other hormones, they modify the conditions for which those hormones are received and express themselves in human physiology.
For instance, a man may be brimming with free testosterone due to healthy hormones, diet, and lifestyle. Still, without properly functioning androgen receptors, he may not reap the benefits of physical strength, a deeper voice, and other fundamental male traits.
Keep in mind that androgen receptors are found in body tissue of both men and women, since both sexes produce and respond to hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. The difference is that men generate much higher concentrations of testosterone, which explains why the rate of balding is multiplied by more than 10 in men compared to women.
How Do Androgen Recepters Affect Hair Loss?
We know that the AR gene plays a role in male pattern balding, but what are the mechanisms at work, and can we accurately predict outcomes based on genetic assessment?
One thing is certain: the conversion of testosterone to DHT is a precursor to hair loss in men, which explains why drugs such as finasteride prove effective preventing further loss by blocking DHT.
Where the science gets fuzzy is how androgen receptors respond to DHT, and why certain men go bald quickly despite sharing the same hormone profiles as other men. While we know that variations in the AR gene can precede hair loss in certain men, that connection remains unclear despite years of focused research.
Even more interesting is the connection between male pattern balding and other diseases with a genetic component, all seemingly related to the function of the AR gene.
As science inches closer to unveiling the truth of the AR gene and its function, we may see parallel breakthroughs in hair loss and several other diseases, helping to alleviate suffering and increase longevity worldwide.
Other Genetic Components and Theories
The AR gene offers the clearest and most compelling genetic basis for balding so far, but other theories and questions are still floating around the scientific community.
A series of broad candidate gene studies show that the pathogenesis (disease origin) of androgenetic pattern balding is closely associated with eight or more genomic loci throughout the entire human genome. In simple terms, at least eight genetic markers may lead to balding, and that’s likely a low-end estimate.
While these findings fall short of a clear connection to a path to a cure, they certainly support the thesis that pattern baldness is heritable and driven by genetic code.
Other studies claim to have found dozens of genetic markers associated with male pattern balding, though these discoveries lack the evidential strength of the AR gene and other top candidates.
As studies of the genome, endocrinology, and other scientific fields push forward, expect to see the secrets of genetic code unraveled, leading us to more effective and immediate predictions and treatments.
Six Genetic Balding Myths
Discoveries regarding the AR gene and others are promising, and bring us a step closer to a cure for hair loss and other ailments. However, it’s also important to debunk common myths as we push forward on our path to scientific truth and effective treatment.
Here are the top balding myths related to genetics that have persisted over time, and what both patients and doctors should know moving forward.
1. One DNA Test Can Tell All
We can learn a lot about our genes from a simple spit or swab test, including where our ancestors are from. However, we still don’t have the clarity or certainty to determine genetic predisposition for balding from a generic test.
2. Genetic Hair Loss Is Strictly Maternal
You’ve surely heard the idea that hair loss is passed down through the mother’s bloodline, but the science to support this claim is nowhere to be found. In fact, men with bald fathers seem to be more likely to develop alopecia in their lifetimes.
3. Balding Is Only for the Old (or Young)
Some say that if you’re going to go bald, genetics will trigger the event sooner rather than later. In truth, genetic alopecia can kick in at any stage of a man’s life, and the chances increase by roughly 10% for every decade that passes.
4. Pattern Baldness Impacts Men Only
Men are far more likely to experience traditional androgenetic alopecia and Norwood-pattern balding compared to women. However, females can indeed experience hair loss, mostly in the center of the scalp, particularly following menopause or another form of hormonal disruption.
5. More Testosterone Means More Hair Loss
The archetype of the burly bald weightlifter might seem prevalent in media, but the pattern holds little bearing in reality. High testosterone and physical traits don’t correlate to hair loss, as the interaction of DHT with scalp follicles is the central point of focus.
6. Medication Counteracts Genetics
Online doctors are quick to prescribe drugs like minoxidil, but leading hair restoration specialists know that these medications are not necessarily effective in the face of genetic hair loss.
Instead, experts like Dr. Jae Pak recommend treatments like microchanneling, oral finasteride, and other proven methods alongside a custom hair loss plan for each patient.
What Should You Do if You’re Predisposed to Balding?
Although we can’t give patients a definitive prediction on when they might start balding and to what degree, there are steps that all men and women can take right now to defend against hair loss early on.
After all, hair restoration measures are most effective when deployed at the first signal of loss, so consider the following steps regardless of your current condition.
Monitor Progression Closely
Hair loss happens slowly, and we may not notice until it’s too late. Commit to closely monitoring trends like shedding, thinning, and loosening follicles. The hairline and temples are your main focus points, but also pay attention to the crown and vertex over time.
Consult With Hair Loss Experts
Don’t go it alone if you suspect hair loss is in your near future. It’s better to get ahead of the curve and consult with an expert like Jae Pak, MD, as a preventive measure. This way, you can strategize ways to keep your hair for longer without the anxiety or stress of later-stage hair loss.
Follow Up With Treatments or Procedures
The best way to overcome genetic balding is to address the problem head-on with effective procedures, performed by leading hair restoration experts.
From FUE and FUT hair transplants to forehead lowering, these transformative procedures can work wonders for patients with hair loss at any stage. As always, early consultation pays off, giving you and your doctor more time and donor hair to work with.
Commit to Long-Term Hair Health
Just one professional hair transplant can deliver major results, but your commitment to long-term hair health must be ongoing.
Remain in close contact with your physicians and clinic team to maintain your hairline through the years and avoid common pitfalls that may diminish results.
Don’t Let Genetics Dictate Your Hairline
There is undoubtedly a genetic component to hair loss, and the AR gene (among others) gives us a clue to the inner workings of these inherited traits. For now, we must sort through the speculation and try to gain a clear view of the realities of hair loss, despite our foggy view of human genetics.
However, the shortcomings of science are no excuse to let your hair go. Use what’s available to your advantage whether you’re young, middle-aged, or in your golden years. There has never been a better time to get ahead of hair loss at any stage, and with proper planning, you can beat the genetic odds with all that modern medicine has to offer.
Find out if Hair Restoration is right for you.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!