Finding what genes are at the root of hair loss in men could lead to treatments that not only put fur back on top but also prevent serious diseases. Science is getting closer to those treatments with the more than 250 new genetic variants that have just been linked to severe hair loss.

A study in PLOS Genetics says the genes were identified by analyzing data from more than 52,000 men between 40 and 69 years old, and can be used to predict baldness. About 14 percent of the genes could be traced to the X chromosome — one of the sex-determining chromosomes — that the men received from their mother at conception. However, those genes on the X chromosome were more closely associated with early-onset baldness as opposed to baldness later in life.

Perhaps the most well-known side effect of balding is emotional: “Living with male pattern baldness can be stressful and embarrassing,” the study says. “Male pattern baldness affects around 80 percent of men by the age of 80 years, and it can have substantial psychosocial impacts via changes in self-consciousness and social perceptions.”

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