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Why gray hairs appear: they discover the gene that causes them

Why gray hairs appear: they discover the gene that causes them

They have finally discovered the gene that causes gray hair to appear.

For some people gray hair is proof of experience, interest and even of sensuality. For others, however, they are a static problem associated with aging. Regardless of the tastes of each, the person responsible for the canasy is already known the way to avoid it.

As scientists already knew, they are the melanocytes cells responsible for coloring hair. Melanocytes form during embryonic development and migrate to the most superficial layer of the skin and to hair follicles, where hair is formed. Here, they produce colored pigments of two types: eumelanins, darker in color, and the pheomelanins, clearer. Depending on the proportion in which both pigments are transferred to the hair, one or the other color will be produced: from blonde to brown hair, through to red and brown.

Recently, a study carried out by a research group of the University College of London He has found the genes responsible for altering this process which will ultimately lead to gray hair. This study further explains whyin Europeans this hair color appears more frequently.

The IRF4 gene, Richard Gere's secret

Yes, that's the name of the world's most famous gene for gray hair. IRF4 had already been linked to the ability to store and produce melanin. However, it is the first time that its relationship with graying hair has been confirmed. What has made their discovery possible has been the genetic analysis of more than 6,000 people from different continents. Until now, the studies have been directed only at Europeans, and little genetic variation among volunteers has made it difficult to draw conclusions from the analyzes.

A certain mutation in this gene reduces the production of an enzyme called tyrosinase, essential in the production of melanin pigments. So, the presence of this mutation reduces the amount of melanin that is produced and ultimately increases the likelihood of graying hair. In addition, the study published in Nature Communications reveals that this mutation appears more frequently in the European population.

Other genes related to the human aspect

Another important novelty of the study is that it has identified up to 18 genes related to facial appearance. Among them, the PRSS53 gene stands out, which determines if the hair is straight or curly. This gene mut several million years ago, when humans started walking on two legs and left the woods. This mutation resulted in curly hair, which provided a greater ability to regulate body temperature than straight hair.

Also, as it appears in the image, other genes are related to the beard and eyebrow thickness (WWTP and FOXL2, respectively), with the probability of having eyebrows together or nose morphology. This work can break new ground when it comes to aesthetics and the cosmetics industry. Similarly, forensic medicine, genetics, and anthropology may also thrive on this discovery in the future.

Thus, perhaps a simulation of a person's appearance can be made only with a sample of their DNA, which could be used both for forensic investigations and to visually construct our evolutionary history.

Source | Nature Communications