Is your hair starting to turn grey? A recent study explains why this may be happening.
If you’ve been noticing a few grey hairs in the mirror lately, you are definitely not alone. And according to a report from Reuters, there may be nothing you can do about them either. A recent study from scientists at University College London has identified the first gene responsible for turning hairs grey.
Based on an analysis of DNA from over 6,300 people hailing from five different countries in Latin America, researchers have singled out agene that determines the likelihood that your hair will turn grey at one point or another.
The gene is called IRF4, and regulates melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for determining hair color, as well as eye and skin color. People with a certain variation of IRF4 were shown to be more likely to experience greying hair, though scientists say that the odds are also influenced buy environmental factors.
According to Kaustubh Adhikari, a geneticist at University College London, “This is really the first study on the genetics of hair graying in humans. A drug that has effects on the melanin-production pathway in hair follicles as the follicles develop internally might reduce the need to apply external hair dyes on the scalp hair after it comes out. This is certainly a research avenue worth pursuing.”
Interestingly enough, the variant of the IRF4 gene that led to increased likelihood of greying hair was most commonly found in Latin Americans with a European ancestral history. This could explain why many people of European descent experience greying hair more often than other populations.
Grey hair can also appear after a person experiences a stressful or traumatic event. The discovery of the IRF4 variant reveals that these environmental factors aren’t the only thing influencing the likelihood of getting grey hair. Scientists were also able to identify genes that influenced other hair traits, like curliness, eyebrow shape, and facial hair cover.
A press release from University College London describing the details of the study can be found here.