It’s long been known that COVID-19 is more fatal for men than women, and new research links some of that excess risk to a gene known to cause a form of hair loss in males.
A U.S. team of researchers first suspected the link when they noticed that men with a common form of hormone-sensitive hair loss, known as androgenetic alopecia, were also more prone to being hospitalized with COVID-19.
“Among hospitalized men with COVID-19, 79% presented with androgenetic alopecia compared to 31%-53% that would be expected in a similar aged match population,” said researchers led by Dr. Andy Goren, chief medical officer at Applied Biology Inc. in Irvine, Calif. They presented their findings May 6 at the virtual spring meeting of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV).
The researchers noted that androgenetic alopecia is caused by the activity of the androgen receptor (AR) gene, which in some men can lead to hair loss. An enzyme called TMPRSS2, key to COVID-19 infection, is also androgen-sensitive, and might be affected by the AR gene as well, Goren’s group explained.
One key segment on the AR gene appears to affect both COVID-19 severity and the propensity of men to lose their hair due to androgenetic alopecia.