New results the end of gray hair?
Anyone who is a little older should know the problem. We wake up one morning, look in the mirror and discover the first gray hair there. For some people, this moment is a real disaster. They try to hide their gray hair by coloring them. Other people deal with it very loosely and stand by their age and gray hair. But why is it that we get gray hair? Researchers have now discovered a gene that is responsible for our gray hair, and there may soon be ways to switch off the graying of our hair.
When we get older, we all get gray hair at some point. However, some people find it uncomfortable when their hair turns gray. There is good news for such people now. Scientists from University College London have now discovered a gene that triggers our gray hair. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Communications".
Gen affects what hair color and skin color we have
If you're one of those people who doesn't like getting gray hair, there's hope. Researchers from University College London discovered a human gene that is responsible for our gray hair. The new findings may make it possible to develop drugs and cosmetics that switch off the gene, say the doctors. Gray hair is caused by the depletion of melanin. The pigment usually causes the color in our hair, skin and eyes. That blondes, for example, have lighter hair and usually also lighter skin is due to the low presence of melanin. If the melanin disappears from the hair, they turn gray. The new findings now show for the first time that a gene is responsible for this graying, explains lead author Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari from University College London.
Millions are spent on hair dye every year
Nowadays there are some people who stand by their gray hair and this hair color is becoming more and more popular. One reason could be that some celebrities no longer hide their gray hair these days. For example, George Clooney doesn't dye his hair, the actor stands by his gray hair and still looks attractive. For most people, however, graying their hair is still an alarming sign of aging, the researchers explain. It is therefore not surprising that several million euros are spent on hair dye every year.
IRF4 gene determines whether our hair turns gray
The IRF4 gene has been shown to play a critical role in our hair color, but for the first time the gene has now been linked to graying. We already knew that several genes are responsible for our hair color and hair loss, the experts explain. Genes also influence whether we get gray hair and determine the shape and density of our hair, says Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari. These new findings were only possible because we were able to analyze a diverse melting pot of people, the researchers report. In the future it will probably be possible to prevent gray hair. Perhaps there will even be a way to return existing gray hair to its original color, the scientists say. Once we know more about pigmentation and all of the genes involved, it should be easy to find a protein or enzyme that can regulate activity, adds Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari added.
In the future we may be able to change our hair and eye color
To find out what caused gray hair, the research team analyzed the DNA samples from more than 6,600 volunteers. These were recruited from many different countries. The subjects came from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru, for example, the doctors explain. The visual characteristics for each individual subject were compared to the overall genome analysis results. This is how the genes that trigger differences in our appearance should be identified, the researchers say. The new finding could mean that it is possible to change hair or eye color without having to use dyes. For example, we could change our appearance by expressing certain genes, the experts add.
New results can also help forensic DNA technology
The team has also discovered several other genes that play a critical role in our physical appearance. For example, the EDAR gene was linked to whether we have a bushy beard. The FOXL2 gene affects how thick our eyebrows grow. PRSS53 causes our hair to curl. The new results could also help forensic DNA technologies to build visual profiles based on the genetic makeup of the individual, the researchers explain. For example, it could determine that a suspect had curly hair by examining his genetic make-up. (as)