Gene linked to balding may up Covid severity in men

Men with a common form of hormone-sensitive hair loss are more prone to being hospitalised and at risk for ICU admission due to Covid-19, researchers have found.

Androgenetic alopecia is a condition of permanent hair loss from the scalp, causing baldness.

The study, led by researchers at US-based biotechnology company Applied Biology, found association between the androgen receptor (AR) gene and Covid-19.

Among men hospitalised with Covid, 79 per cent had androgenetic alopecia compared to 31-53 per cent that would be expected in a similar aged match population, the results showed.

The team found that androgenetic alopecia is controlled by variations in the AR gene, which affects how sensitive the body is to androgens (hormones such as testosterone).

In addition, an enzyme called TMPRSS2, which is key to Covid-19 infection, is also androgen sensitive and may be affected by variations in the AR gene.

They also identified a region located in the AR gene associated with both androgen sensitivity and androgenetic alopecia.

For the study, the team conducted a genetic analysis of 65 men hospitalised with Covid.

They found that men with certain structural differences in the AR gene were more likely to develop severe Covid, than others.

The differences “could be used as a biomarker to help identify male Covid-19 patients most at risk for ICU admissions”, said Andy Goren, Chief Medical Officer, at Applied Biology.

“The identification of a biomarker connected with the androgen receptor is another piece of evidence highlighting the important role of androgens in Covid-19 disease severity,” Goren added.

The findings were presented at the two-day EADV’s 2021 Spring Symposium held online from May 6-7.

The research explores a promising new therapy for Covid-19 using a novel androgen receptor antagonist to regulate TMPRSS2 expression and possibly treat Covid-19 patients.

The results of this study were submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.