But a new option may soon be available, following a gene discovery that may allow for delaying, or even halting, gray hair growth. Normally, this gene plays a significant role in the process which determines hair color, but it seems that this is the first time someone managed to link gray hair to a gene. Understanding how the gene interacts with other genes controling hair colour, for example, might yield cosmetic applications that block the fade to grey as hair grows in the follicle, he said. But the study has found at least one that could be responsible for gray hair.
The study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, also plucks out genes associated with monobrows, eyebrow and beard bushiness, hair color and shape, and balding.
The gene identified for grey hair – IRF4 – is known to play a role in hair color but this is the first time it has been associated with the graying of hair.
“It was only possible because we analyzed a diverse melting pot of people, which hasn’t been done before on this scale”, wrote co-author professor Andres Ruiz-Linares from the University College of London Biosciences.
“These findings have potential forensic and cosmetic applications as we increase our knowledge on how genes influence the way we look”, says Dr. Adhikari.
In order to reach these results, the scientists studied a sample of approximately 6,500 individuals with mixed ancestry from Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. ‘What this [study] shows is that there is a genetic component to hair greying, and that raises the possibility of drugs that can act on the hair internally, so it is already the colour you want when it comes out’.
A gene, called FOXL2, has been linked to bushy eyebrows, while EDAR gene is found responsible for East Asian hair types.
The British Association of Dermatologists found in 2012 that over 70 percent of people between ages 45 and 65 have gray hair. But the IRF4 variant that favours grey also produces fair hair, he cautioned, so tinking with the gene could also mean fewer blondes. There is one more gene, PRSS53, which is associated with curly hair.
“It has always been speculated that hair features could have been influenced by some form of selection, such as natural or sexual selection, and we found statistical evidence in the genome supporting that view”, Adhikari said.
A team of scientists has traced the greying issue to the IRF4 gene, which plays a role in hair color. The group investigated around 6630 people from diverged ancestry across Latin America.