Researchers Locate the Gene Responsible for Grey Hair

What makes hair turn grey? For many years, researchers searched but failed to identify the exact reason behind greying hair. Now, a new study of more than 6,000 South Americans has identified the culprit. According to a study, researchers have located a gene that seems responsible for “turning off” hair color. That study is made available by Nature Communications here (link opens new window). So, are grey hairs a bad thing? Read this article to learn more about what causes grey hair, as well as tips for going with the greyas you age.

The Gene Causing Greys

Until recently, hair loss professionals could only speculate as to what truly caused grey hair. Though opinions varied, most agreed that stress and genetics played a major role. In the wake of a new study, researchers believe they have identified the specific gene that can be held accountable for greying locks. To understand how researchers found this gene, it is first helpful to know how hair gets its color. Individual strands of hair receive their color through the hair follicle. Hair follicles are tiny structures within the outermost layer of the skin. These structures serve as the foundation from which hair grows, supplying blood directly to the derma papilla—a cluster of cells nicknamed DP that control hair growth. In fact, DP is so important, researchers have recently linked DP stem cell degeneration with the onset of hair loss. This area of the hair follicle is also the medium through which hairs receives pigment, and thus color. Researchers identified the gene IRF4 as critical in delivering pigment to hair. According to the study, researchers believe that IRF4 can go senescent (dormant) and eventually inhibit hair from receiving pigment. As a result, hair turns grey one strand at a time.

Going with the Grey

Greying hair is a reminder of immortality, according to New York psychologist Vivian Diller. Not surprisingly, adults usually rush to hide greys, along with the negative feelings they might conjure. However, there is a growing culture of Americans embracing grey hair with style and grace. If you are undecided, consider the following tips for going with the grey.

  1. Recognize that grey hair is living hair. This is very different from receding hairlines and pattern baldness, which is characterized by an increasing number of hair follicles that stop producing hair altogether.
  2. Avoid plucking. If a gene is causing hair to turn grey, then plucking greys will not solve the problem. It will only thin your hair in the area turning grey.
  3. Use hair dyes with caution. Hair dyes are increasingly being linked with allergies and illnesses. Most recently, hair dye has been linked with an increased risk of developing cancer.

At Capillus®, we’re all about hair— even greying hair. Remember the tips above if you begin to notice grey hair, and take comfort in knowing that the cause of your new salt-and-pepper locks is most likely genetic. Speak with a hair loss expert about proactive hair loss prevention, including low level laser therapy (LLLT). To locate an authorized Capillus® reseller near you, visit our Capillus Physician Finder or call 1 (888) 945-6723.

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