Like wrinkled skin and an increase in trips to the bathroom per day, grey hair is a part of getting older. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t make them any more welcome, proven by all the money spent towards hair dye.
Scientists understand greying is the result of a gradual disappearance of melanin in hair follicles (melanin is the protein responsible for hair colour). What they didn’t understand was why this process happens.
Now, in a paper published in Nature Communications, a team of researchers have found the first gene linked to greying hair.
Led by Kaustubh Adhikari, the international team of scientists sequenced the genomes of more than 6000 people from Latin America. They compared the genes to various hair features, including the amounts of grey hair they had.
Adhikari found the one gene that stood out. It’s a gene that’s been connected to blonde hair in Europeans, which he says is logical since it also affects how much melanin the hair follicle receives.
According to the study, the gene accounts for 30% of hair greying, with the rest being factors such as age, environment, and stress.
The discovery of this gene can lead to unlocking the genetic pathway that turns hair grey, which can lead to developing products that help people avoid getting grey hair. The products would replace the melanin, and keep a hair follicle’s original color.
“We might have drugs that boost or stop the protein from acting and change the amount of melanin in hair follicles and change the hair internally,” says Adhikari.
“So once the hair comes out like the way you want, you don’t have go out and buy dyes.”
Stopping people’s hair from turning grey? Besides hair colourists, that’s welcome news for a lot of people.