Are We Close to Discovering a Cure for Gray Hair?
Silver hair has become ubiquitous among the younger generations as of late—in magazines, on the street, and on the runway. And of course, there will always be a soft spot in our hearts for notable silver foxes like George Clooney and Leland Palmer. But for many, wiry gray hairs are still a persistent source of existential anxiety, an insidious reminder that we are all just one day closer to our inevitable doom.
Thankfully, however, we might not have to think about that anymore. That’s because a group of researchers at University College London claim to have just discovered the first gene linked to gray hair, which means we’re that much closer to discovering a way to stop it in its tracks.
So, why do we go gray? In short, it happens as our cells stop producing the melanin pigment that gives our hair follicles their color. And according to a study released on Tuesday, scientists have just identified a gene they call IRF4, which they believe is a crucial element in this process.
To conduct their experiment, the researchers studied hair types and genetic makeups of a diverse group of over 6,000 people living in Latin American countries. They discovered a specific variant of the IRF4 gene present exclusively among people of European descent, who are known to go gray prematurely.
But as much as we would love it to be true, we can’t solve all of our problems with genetic manipulation. The current study suggests that environmental factors actually play a much larger role in graying than our genes do. CNN reports that stress, smoking, and polluted air are all still considered to be main factors in the graying process.
This may not sound like much we haven’t heard before, but this discovery will undoubtedly give scientists the information they need to continue their search for the culprit. We may find an easy way to slow down or even prevent graying, only don’t hold your breath. According to the lead author of the study, Kaustubh Adhikari, it will take “quite a bit more research” before a cure is ever found, and we might all literally go gray before that happens.
Images via New York Daily News, ABC, and the Daily Mail.
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