PRESS RELEASE - A team of investigators from Columbia, Rockefeller and Stanford Universities has identified a new gene involved in hair growth, as reported in a paper in the April 15 issue of Nature. This discovery may affect future research and treatments for male pattern baldness and other forms of hair loss.

The 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 & 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.

Importantly, the researchers found that APCDD1 inhibits a signaling pathway that has long been shown to control hair growth in mouse models, but has not been extensively linked to human hair growth. Laboratory researchers have targeted this pathway, known as the Wnt signaling pathway, to turn on or off hair growth in mice, but, until now, the pathway did not appear to be involved in human hair loss. This finding is significant because it provides evidence that hair growth patterns in humans and in mice are more similar than previously believed.

“We have at last made a connection between Wnt signaling and human hair disease that is highly significant,” said Dr. Christiano. “We have years of beautiful data in our field about hair growth in mice, but this is the first inroad into showing that the same pathway is critical in human hair growth. This is the first mutation in a Wnt inhibitor that deregulates the pathway in a human hair disease.”

“Furthermore, these findings suggest that manipulating the Wnt pathway may have an effect on hair follicle growth – for the first time, in humans,” said Dr. Christiano. “And unlike commonly available treatments for hair loss that involve blocking hormonal pathways, treatments involving the Wnt pathway would be non-hormonal, which may enable many more people suffering from hair loss to receive such therapies.”

Dr. Christiano and her team are now working to understand the complex genetic causes of other forms of hair loss including alopecia areata, with the hope of eventually developing new, effective treatments for these conditions.

Authors of the paper are:

Yutaka Shimomura, Dritan Agalliu, Alin Vonica, Victor Luria, Muhammad Wajid, Alessandra Baumer, Serena Belli, Lynn Petukhova, Albert Schinzel, Ali H. Brivanlou, Ben A. Barres and Angela M. Christiano


1 Departments of Dermatology and 6Genetics & Development, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA; 2 Department of Neurobiology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA; 3 The Laboratory of Vertebrate Embryology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA; 4 Institute of Medical Genetics, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland; 5 Struttura Semplice Genetica Medica APSS, Trento, Italy.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the most comprehensive medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest in the United States. Columbia University Medical Center is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the nation’s largest not-for-profit hospital provider. For more information, please visit

Released: 4/12/2010 10:50 AM EDT
Source: Columbia University Medical Center

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Not new and nothing relevant to do with alopecia areata unless you believe that "hope" is a function. The back story goes way back to the late 1990's. Learn more in my blog of April 16, 2010. Take special note of my link to the NY Times interview with Dr. Christiano from 1998.

In light of the fact that Alopecia World reaches out to "anyone living with any type of unwanted, chronic or medical hair loss," this research is relevant.

Moreover, as to the relevance of this research to those with alopecia areata, perhaps such alopecians would be better served by listening to the cautious and compassionate words of Dr. Christiano, who is also living with alopecia areata:

There is also this 1998 Charlie Rose interview.
CORRECTION: The 1998 Charlie Rose interview is here.
Thanks for sharing the details of this information! Looks like you and Cheryl have a baby now. Congratulations!!! Your sharing this information has made me very hopeful that a world without A.A. may not be too far away . . .
Thanks Lynn, it is a grandson! :0
Lynn, thanks for the congratulation, but the new baby in our life is our grandson, Akeem. ;-) He was born two months ago and is quite the bundle of joy. :-)

Now concerning your hope that a world without alopecia areata may not be too far away, it is important to note, as does Dr. Christiano in the CNN interview, that the scientific study of rare forms of hair loss might give the researchers traction to understand common forms of hair loss like alopecia areata. However, this does not imply that a cure for alopecia areata per se is just around the corner. Keep hope alive, is you must, but also allow realism to steer you towards constructive alternative coping strategies in the meantime.
Dr. C. is a highly competent genetics researcher. However, the topics in this brief interview she mentions are all over the place and are not inter-related and run the gamut of the "hairloss" conditions map. In particular, keep in mind that the miniaturization of follicles she is referring to ( "the study" ) is for a rare genetic disease called hypotrichosis simplex in which people have hairs at birth but they shrink up and shrivel away and in every generation no one can grow hair. She has been studying a multi-generational family in Pakistan with this disease since the late 90's.

The "new gene identified" is simply the ID and naming of a mutation of a gene they already discovered years back. I's not a bee-line to anything more. It does, however, make a splashy headline.

A world without AA is beyond my life time. No autoimmune diseases have ever been cured.Ever. Despite decades of genetic tagging, identification, and even boatloads of money ( for a special few diseases but there still are no cures).

That's why focusing on knowing how to live a beautiful life and developing those skills is the key to success in this world. It's at the core of our nonprofit's work and why the AAD recognizes the science in our blog with awards.

The exaggerated excitement of these news articles is unfortunately misguided and distracts people, women in particular, from focusing on the things they do have control over.

Check back in 2, 5 or 10 years just as you can check back on every "new discovery" in your old AA newsletters and find the very same lack of progress. There's no fault to be found other than with making news where there is none of relevance. It's the way autoimmunity is. It's also the way the public is captivated by the dual pre-occupations of either too much or too little hair. It sells.


P.S. Very yummy grandchild you got there. Enjoy!
I will not deny you hope, but only hope that you will not deny the now.


P.S. Thanks, Thea. We will do! :-)





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