A study developed at the University College London discovered a gene linked to gray hair causes and effects. Now researchers say they have found a gene associated with the attribute of gray hair, according to a paper published on Tuesday in the Nature Communications Journal.

Notably, the study confirms that hair graying has a genetic component and is not just due to hair weakening, as the cells grow old. While researchers discovered the first gene identified for graying hair, the findings could lead to a step forward for science in delaying the beginning of gray hair. The study could also improve the people’s understanding of aging in general, as well as the perception of time.

The genes that determine people’s hair color have been long known to scientists, yet finding the genetic reason why people’s hair color turns gray was still unknown. Credit: Advanced Style

“We already know several genes involved in balding and hair color but this is the first time a gene for graying has been identified in humans,” said Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, lead author of the study at University College London. “These findings have potential forensic and cosmetic applications as we increase our knowledge on how genes influence the way we look.”

In order for researchers to compile significant data, a diverse population was the target of the study as it analyzed a varied group of 6,000 volunteers of European, African and Native American ancestry. The data showed the graying gene called IRF4 to be responsible for controlling hair graying thanks to the genome analysis. Researchers at the University College London believe the gene plays a role in melanin regulation as well as hair, skin and eye’s color.

Roots of hair diversity revealed

The findings were only possible because researchers analyzed a ‘diverse molting pot of people,’ according to Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares at the UCL Cell & Developmental Biology. As the IRF4 gene helps regulate melanin production and storage, the absence of the substance is what actually causes people’s hair to turn gray. Experts now believe there are many genetic factors involved in the aging course, as well as environmental factors causing different reactions in people around the world.

“The genes we’ve identified are unlikely to work in isolation to cause graying or straight hair,” said lead study author Dr. Adhikari at the University College London. “But they have a role to play along with many other factors yet to be identified.”

With the gene properly analyzed, scientists have their job cut for them as this could lead to the creation of new products able to keep people’s hair the original color. The additional benefits of this discovery could lead to important insights on human evolution as well as it could help researchers understand people’s aging through history, according to study authors.

Source: Huffington Post