May 26, 2009

Scientists Link Gene To Early Hair Loss

A Japanese research team has pinpointed a particular gene that may be linked to early hair loss.

Researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the lack of a gene called Sox21 was directly linked to early hair loss. The gene is found in both humans and mice.

Scientists genetically engineered mice to lack the gene and reported noticeable hair loss soon thereafter.

"The mice started to lose their fur from postnatal day 11, beginning at the head and progressing toward the tail region of the back," researchers said.

"Between day 20 and day 25, these mice eventually lost all of their body hair, including the whiskers. Intriguingly, new hair regrowth was initiated a few days later but was followed by renewed hair loss."

The study was the first to show that the Sox21 gene is linked to hair retention, said Yumiko Saga, a mammalian development professor at the National Institute of Genetics.

"Normally, new hair appears right after old hair falls out," she told AFP. "But the hair of these mice fell out very early, making their bald periods longer."

"It is entirely possible that the gene is also a cause of thinning hair" among humans, Saga said.

They found that lack of the Sox21 gene resulted in improper cuticle formation.

"Cuticles usually have a scaled structure, locking hair in the scalp," said Saga. Without the Sox21 gene, the mice's cuticles lacked the scaled structure.


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