Genes associated with baldness may also increase COVID risk in men

  1. Home
  2. BLOG
  3. Genes associated with baldness may also increase COVID risk in men

It has long been known that COVID-19 is more deadly in men than in women, but a new study shows that part of the excess risk is associated with a gene known to cause hair loss in men.

The U.S. research team first suspected the link when they noticed that men with the common hormone-sensitive form of hair loss known as male pattern baldness were more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

Researchers led by Dr. Andy Goren, chief medical officer of Applied Biology in Irvine, California, said, “Of the men hospitalized with COVID-19, 79% presented with male pattern baldness.” The researchers presented their findings on May 6 at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Virtual Spring Meeting.

The researchers noted that male pattern baldness is caused by the activity of the androgen receptor (AR) gene, which may lead to hair loss in some men; an enzyme called TMPRSS2, which is key to COVID-19 infection, is also androgen sensitive and may be affected by the AR gene Goren’s group explained.

One key segment on the AR gene appears to influence both the severity of COVID-19 and the propensity for hair loss due to male pattern baldness.

The Irvine group conducted a genetic analysis of 65 men hospitalized with COVID-19. They found that men with specific structural differences in the AR gene were more likely to develop severe COVID-19. abnormalities in the AR gene “may be used as a biomarker to identify male COVID-19 patients at highest risk for ICU admission,” Dr. Goren stated in a press release.

He also believes that “the identification of biomarkers related to androgen receptors is another piece of evidence highlighting the important role of androgens (male hormones) in the severity of COVID-19.”

Dr. Teresa Murray Amato is Director of Emergency Medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York City and has seen many severe cases of COVID-19. She is unaffiliated with this new study, but stated that “there is a significant correlation between higher androgen receptor counts and a higher incidence of ICU admission in patients infected with COVID-19.”

Amato added, “Although this study is small and the exact association is not fully understood, it may provide at least one answer to why men are more likely to enter the ICU and have higher overall morbidity with COVID-19 infection.

According to Amato, further studies are needed to determine “whether drugs that inhibit the androgen receptor are useful in the treatment of some COVID-19 patients.”

Because the findings were presented at a medical conference, they should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Read also