The recent discovery of a rare genetic mutation that causes excessive hair growth all over people’s bodies might help lead to a cure not only for this condition but also for less serious cases of the problem and, at the other extreme, balding, according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and reported by ScienceDaily.

For the study, U.S. and Chinese researchers teamed to compare findings from their individual studies on a chromosome mutation that caused people to grow excess hair on unusual parts of the body. (Chromosomes are single strands of DNA containing many genes.)

The initial discovery of the mutation happened when Xue Zhang, the chair of medical genetics at Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, studied an excessive hair growth condition known as CGH in a Chinese family. Researchers later compared the Chinese findings to similar study results found by Pragna Patel, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, at the University of California’s Keck School of Medicine, who had discovered the disorder in a Mexican family in 1993.

In the Mexican family, Patel noted that males with the disorder have hair covering their entire face, including their eyelids and their upper body, while females with CGH have thick patches of hair on their bodies.

In her study, Patel sequenced nearly 100 genes but could find no mutation. But when Zhang and his colleagues examined a specific chromosome of the Mexican and Chinese family members, they noted that “extra” DNA sequences inserted themselves into this chromosome in the exact same place. Both researchers suggested that the mutation might switch on a gene named SOX3 and possibly trigger the abnormal hair growth.

“If in fact the inserted sequences turn on a gene that can trigger hair growth, it may hold promise for treating baldness or hirsutism [excessive hair growth] in the future, especially if we could engineer ways to achieve this with drugs or other means,” Patel said.

In the meantime, try to hold on to what you’ve got up top.

Click here to read how tight-pulling hairstyles like braids and weaves can contribute to baldness.