Biomarker linked to male hair loss found to determine COVID-19 severity
Findings presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Spring Symposium suggest that men with genetic characteristics (phenotypes) sensitive to the male sex hormone androgen, are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 disease.
Researchers were driven to study the association between the androgen receptor (AR) gene and COVID-19, after observing a disproportionate number of men hospitalised with COVID-19 presenting with androgenetic alopecia compared to the expected number in a similar age-matched population (79% vs. 31-53%).
Androgenetic alopecia is controlled by variations in the AR gene, which affects how sensitive the body is to androgens. In addition, an enzyme implicated in COVID-19 infection (TMPRSS2) is regulated by an androgen response element – meaning that it too may be affected by variations in the AR gene.
As the polyglutamine repeat (CAG repeat) region located in the AR gene is associated with both androgen sensitivity and androgenetic alopecia; the study sought to identify the connection between CAG repeat region length and predisposition to increased COVID-19 disease severity.
Dr Andy Goren, Chief Medical Officer, Applied Biology, Irvine, California, said: “Our data show that longer AR CAG scores are associated with more severe COVID‐19 disease and indicate that AR CAG repeat length could be used as a biomarker to help identify male COVID‐19 patients most at risk for ICU admissions.”
“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.”
Further research is being conducted into using a novel androgen receptor antagonist to regulate TMPRSS2 expression and possibly treat COVID-19 patients.
Prof Lidia Rudnicka, EADV Board Member and Professor at the Medical University of Warsaw, said: “This research demonstrates the scientific value of dermatology by offering key insights into the role of genetics and its link to COVID disease.
“It is an excellent example of some of the pioneering abstracts being showcased at The EADV Spring Symposium this year.”
Androgenetic alopecia is a genetically determined, progressive loss of hair from the scalp which occurs in both men and women. It is the most common type of hair loss, affecting approximately 50% of men over the age of 50 and around 50% of women over the age of 65.
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