The Greying Gene through Research

Researchers Discover Genes Associated With Human Hair Growth

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The Washington Post (3/1, Feltman) reports in “Speaking of Science” that researchers have discovered “a whole host of genes associated with human hair growth – including, for the very first time, a gene they believe contributes to hair going gray.” The study published March 1 in Nature Communications also details “genes associated with monobrows, eyebrow and beard bushiness, hair color and shape, and balding.”

CNN (3/1, Storrs) reports that for the study, investigators conducted “a search involving the hair types and genomes of more than 6,000 people living in five Latin American countries.” Those populations were chosen “because they represent a good mix of backgrounds” and hair types. Scientists then discovered the IRF4 gene, which is implicated in graying. They also “made the connection between a specific variation in IRF4 and the gray hair trait exclusively among Europeans, who are known to have a higher chance of premature graying than people of other descent.”

TIME (3/1, Park) points out that the IRF4 gene “accounted for about 30% of hair greying, with the remaining 70% due to other factors such as age...stress and other environmental exposures.” Having identified the gene, scientists will now have the opportunity “to figure out the genetic pathway responsible for turning hair grey, and that could lead to new products that help people avoid” going gray. Also covering the story are Reuters (3/1, Dunham), Newsweek (3/1, Firger), the NPR (3/1, Shute) “Shots” blog, the New York Daily News (3/1, Alba), HealthDay (3/1, Preidt), and BBC News (UK) (3/1).

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