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According to a recent study, premature graying is not tied only to a stressful lifestyle. There is also a genetic culprit for gray hair, which scientists have recently identified.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that a gene called IRF4 plays a significant part in graying. Researchers at the University College London now hope that their finding may spark new research on how to delay the natural sign of aging.
The research involved about 6,600 participants from the U.S., Europe, and Africa. Volunteers agreed to provide genetic samples for the new research. Study authors said that they needed a diverse genetic background to make sure that study results were accurate.
Study authors explained that hair color is due to pigments released by the melanocytes within hair follicles. But as we grow older, melanocytes’ natural production of pigments is reduced, so the hair becomes gray. Past studies had shown that various processes may play a role in graying beside age. But some researchers have long suspected that the genes may have also something to do with it.
Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, the lead author of the latest study, explained that the recent finding may help science solve the mystery. Researchers found the IRF4 gene on chromosome six. Yet, they suspect that more genes may be associated with graying.
Researchers noted that IRF4 is a “juicy” starting point for further investigation into the issue. Previous research has pinpointed genes that are responsible for natural hair color and balding. Still, never before had scientists spotted a gene linked to gray hair in humans.
The research team also detected the genes responsible for unibrows and bushy eyebrows. Plus, they noticed that whites tend to go gray sooner than Asians and Africans. Whites usually see their first gray hairs in their mid-thirties.
In some cases, graying can happen much sooner, like in the mid 20s. The rare process is called premature graying. Science has yet to find the exact cause of the phenomenon, but they suspect genes may also play a role. Scientists have explained that premature graying is not linked to premature aging. So, don’t expect body functions to decline faster if you happen to go gray before time.
Still, scientists at the University College London underscored that the newly identified genes are unlikely to be the sole culprits for graying, monobrows, and eyebrow thickness. The team expects to identify more factors responsible for the traits. And when that happens expect a new era of beauty products and treatments to emerge.
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