A new gene involved in hair growth has been identified by a team of investigators from Columbia, Rockefeller and Stanford Universities.
The finding has been reported in a paper in the April 15 issue of Nature.
In the study, researchers found that the gene, called APCDD1, which causes a progressive form of hair loss beginning in childhood (known as hereditary hypotrichosis simplex). The disease is caused by a phenomenon called hair follicle miniaturization - the same key feature of male pattern baldness. When hair follicles go through this miniaturization process, they shrink or narrow, causing the thick hair on the head to be replaced by thin, fine hair, known as "peach fuzz."
"The identification of this gene underlying hereditary hypotrichosis simplex has afforded us an opportunity to gain insight into the process of hair follicle miniaturization, which is most commonly observed in male pattern hair loss or androgenetic alopecia," 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."
The team made their discovery by analyzing genetic data from a few families from Pakistan and Italy with hereditary hypotrichosis simplex. They found a common mutation in the APCDD1 gene, which is located in a specific region on chromosome 18 that has been shown in previous studies to be implicated in other forms of hair loss, including androgenetic alopecia and alopecia areata, hinting at a broader role in hair follicle biology.