Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Scientists discover mutated gene responsible for baldness

From time immemorial there have been numerous attempts to find a cure for stupidity and baldness. Every year pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies spend millions of dollars on research and development of new methods of treatment based on the latest scientific achievements. However, the molecular mechanisms that control the growth of hair and its loss during baldness remain unclear.

Professor Evgeni Rogayev, a Russian biologist known for his research into genetic control mechanisms of mental processes, has identified a gene linked to hair growth impairment. Scientists discovered mutations in the gene while conducting a research into the causes of a disease characterized by the hair loss or its growth deficiency. The discovered gene codifies phospholipase, a ferment that occurs in hair follicles. The mutation discovered in the gene may shed light on the causes of baldness.

An article titled Human Hair Growth Deficiency Is Linked to a Genetic Defect in the Phospholipase Gene LIPH was published by Science journal in November. It is co-authored by Prof. Rogayev, Academician Evgeni Ginter at the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in collaboration with geneticists at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow State University, and the Medical School of the University of Massachusetts. By the bye, the above medical school’s annual budget is $174 million, with 80% of the budget provided from the federal coffers. It stands to reason that the school has become one of the most rapidly developing academic centers in the United States.

In the past, Prof. Rogayev and his colleagues did research on one of the forms of hypotrichosis (a condition in which less hair develops than normal) discovered in a given ethnic population of the Russian Federation. Besides, both men and women of the affected population also had a deficiency of body hair aside from being affected by baldness.

To identify a genetic defect occurring during alopecia or baldness, researchers carried out an extended genetic screening of more of than 350 thousand individuals from different groups. They selected 50 families, in which the mutant gene was passed down from generation to generation. A position cloning technique that was previously used for searching of other human genes e.g. those associated with the causes of Alzheimer’s disease was used for locating the gene.

The analysis of DNA samples taken from the patients and their relatives revealed that all the affected individuals had a mutation in the phospholipase gene, a ferment that produces bioactive lipids. Subsequent experiments showed that the ferment was normally synthesized in hair follicles including the areas that contain stem cell. The findings enabled researchers to conclude that the ferment should partake in the development and growth of hair.

Though further research is required, the discovered genetic defect indicates that the gene plays an important role in hair growth control. The ferment involved in a chain of metabolic reactions may be eventually singled out as a potential aim for the development of medicines to prevent the hair loss and stimulate its growth.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Translated by Guerman Grachev