Novel Genetic Biomarker Linked to Hair Loss Can Determine COVID Severity in Men

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Researchers have discovered a novel biomarker to identify male COVID-19 patients most at risk for ICU admission.

The findings presented today at EADV’s 2021 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 the disproportionate number of men hospitalized with COVID-19 presenting with androgenetic alopecia (a common form of hair-loss) compared to the expected number in a similar age-matched population (79% vs. 31-53%).

Androgenetic alopecia is known to be controlled by variations in the AR gene, which affects how sensitive the body is to androgens (hormones such as testosterone).

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; this research sought to identify the connection between CAG repeat region length and predisposition to increased COVID disease severity.

A prospective study of 65 hospitalized COVID-19 positive men measured the AR CAG repeat length of each man. Researchers found that male covid patients with a CAG repeat below 22 nucleotides (CAG

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