The Grey Hair Gene: Why Going Grey May Be In Your DNA.

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It’s the modern doomsday. That moment you find your first grey hair. You frantically pluck that stray of greyness out from your scalp, causing a hair injury in the process. Then there’s the numerous hair dye disaster moments you endure as you repeatedly camouflage those silver roots.

If only there was a cure to going grey?

Well, scientists have recently discovered a genetic marker that turns hair grey. A.K.A a grey hair gene. Media outlets had a field day, publishing claims that this groundbreaking discovery hailed the extinction of silver foxes and greying grannies forever.  The idea was that genetic modification could be done to reverse or prevent the greying process.

“Hallelujah, ” you cry. ‘”Sign me right up.”

Wait. Before you get too excited, these claims of a cure for grey hair may actually be too good to be true.

Fifty Shades of Grey

A recent article on NHS Choices website de-mythed the media hype surrounding the claims.

Several media outlets reported enthusiastically about the discovery of this gene and how it could pave the way for new treatments to prevent – or reverse – greying.

The stories are a based on a study that analysed the DNA sequence of more than 6,000 people from Latin America to try to identify genetic markers associated with hair features, such as greying and balding. The researchers found 18 genetic markers associated with facial or head hair, ten of which had not previously been linked to hair traits.

These markers were associated with the colour, texture, density and distribution of hair.  But, we don’t know whether they have a direct influence on these traits.

It is likely that many different genetic markers and associated genes affect our hair. And it is too early to herald a cure for grey hair based on the findings of this study alone.  Right now there’s nothing we can do to alter the genetic make-up of our hair. Even if the genetics were fully understood, other factors, such as age,  stress, health and lifestyle contribute to hair turning grey.

The Facts Behind The Fiction

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of London, Universidad de Oviedo in Spain, and other international institutions. The study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Nature Communications. It’s available to read online for free.

 

The study involved identifying genetic associations for hair characteristics in a Latin American population. The researchers included a sample of 6,630 men and women from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. The researchers looked at which hair traits were associated with each other, as well as age, gender and ancestry. They then identified those DNA variations with the most association with different hair traits.

 

 

Go Grey Gracefully…

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So unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to alter our hair trait genetics at present. Much more research is needed for researchers to fully understand the genetics of hair greying, and possibly start to develop treatments based on this.

Don’t forget, our age plays a huge part in hair greying, and any potential treatments may not be able to combat this factor. While the research is of interest in understanding the genetics of hair, it has no current practical implications for anyone wanting to banish their grey hair.

I’m sorry to say, a cure for grey hair is not yet in sight. (But on the bright side, silver foxes like George Clooney and Richard Gere will still be around!)

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