Published: Mon, May 07, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

Why Does Hair Turn Gray? Scientists May Have A New Answer

Why Does Hair Turn Gray? Scientists May Have A New Answer

Stress actually can turn your hair gray, according to researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham. When the hair falls, there are special stem cells which add melanocytes to new follicles of hair. The researchers speculate that perhaps this can explain why some people experience premature gray hair early in life, and they will continue their studies to address this question. When these stem cells stop working, our hair loses its pigment.

However, the investigators said they were surprised by the link they found between immune system activation and hair pigmentation in the mice. Melanocytes are the cells known for melanin and hair color.

More news: Have Colton Haynes and Jeff Latham split?

In it, the authors explain how the immune response affects the MITF protein. Since many years, gray hair has been linked with old age but there are also many young people who have premature gray hair.

Their research, published Thursday [May 3] in PLOS Biology, suggests a gene that regulates the natural pigment melanin also keeps our immune system from turning on itself. As a result, the mice lost many melanocytes and melanocyte stem cells, and grew significantly more grey hair. The experts discovered a connection between the genes that trigger immune response and the regulation of hair and skin color. The loss of melanocyte and melanocyte stem cells will result in non-pigmented - or gray - hair.

More news: Most sought after stock in today's trading: Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK)

Scientists from the UAB studied melanocytes in mice predisposed to gray fur and discovered an interesting connection between hair pigmentation and virus prevention.

MITF not only seems to supervise the production of melanin within melanocytes, but also controls genes responsible for releasing interferons, immune proteins that help fight off viral infection. We are interested in genes that affect how our stem cells are maintained over time.

More news: Salman Khan's Bail Plea Hearing In Blackbuck Poaching Case Today, Reaches Jodhpur

Because MITF turns out to be a "critical suppressor of innate immunity" and can cause loss of pigment producing cells, there may be implications for understanding vitiligo as well, the authors conclude. Furthermore, if innate immune signaling is artificially activated in mice that are predisposed for getting gray hair, increased numbers of gray hairs are also produced. These latest results could help researchers find new ways of treating immune disorders, such as vitiligo, a condition that causes discolored patches of skin.

Like this: