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The molecular mechanisms controlling human hair growth and scalp hair loss are poorly understood. By screening about 350,000 individuals in two populations from the Volga-Ural region of Russia, we identified a gene mutation in families who show an inherited form of hair loss and a hair growth defect. Affected individuals were homozygous for a deletion in the LIPH gene on chromosome 3q27, caused by short interspersed nuclear element–retrotransposon–mediated recombination. The LIPH gene is expressed in hair follicles and encodes a phospholipase called lipase H (alternatively known as membrane-associated phosphatidic acid–selective phospholipase A1α), an enzyme that regulates the production of bioactive lipids. These results suggest that lipase H participates in hair growth and development.