Changes in the sebaceous gland in patients with male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia)

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Sep;14(3):178-84. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12153. Epub 2015 Jul 3.


Background: The sebaceous gland and the follicular bulge region have important role in biology of the hair. They initiate destruction of the hair follicle both in human and animal models in certain conditions. The morphometric feature of the sebaceous gland is not well understood so as the distribution of the bulge stem cells in pathological conditions of male pattern hair loss or androgenic alopecia (AGA).

Objectives: The authors perform morphometric analysis of the sebaceous gland in AGA patients and also study distribution of the follicular stem cells in the bulge region in these populations.

Methods: Two hundred and fifty cases of glass slide specimen from Japanese patients with male pattern hair loss were reviewed. Among these, 23 cases of the longitudinal (vertical) sections of the scalp skin with diagnosis of AGA were found and analyzed for the morphometric characteristics. Each sebaceous gland area was measured using NIH imagej system and statistically analyzed. For the identification of the follicular bulge region, an immunohistochemistry using anticytokeratin 15 (C8/144B clone) was carried out in the cases of AGA.

Results: The sebaceous gland area of the AGA group was noticeably increased, while the size of each sebaceous gland remains unchanged. It has more lobules in the hair follicular unit in the AGA population. In the immunohistochemistry, the follicular stem cells are present in the bulge regions in cases of AGA.

Conclusions: The overgrowth (multilobulation) of the sebaceous gland and relative preservation of the follicular stem cells suggest that the changes in the sebaceous gland could be an important factor in the pathology of AGA.

Keywords: androgenic alopecia; follicular stem cell; immunohistochemistry; male pattern hair loss; sebaceous gland.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alopecia / metabolism
  • Alopecia / pathology*
  • Hair Follicle / metabolism
  • Hair Follicle / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sebaceous Glands / metabolism
  • Sebaceous Glands / pathology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Young Adult


  • Keratins