Ditch the box dyes: scientists discovered why hair turns grey

A group of experts from New York University believe they may have found the real reason behind why hair colour fades as we age, unlocking potential treatments which mean you no longer have to spend hundreds on dye.

In a new study, which was published this week, scientists outline that they have uncovered the mechanism for hair turning grey, which could help develop treatment to alter cells in order to reverse or halt the process.

man raising hands on vignette photography

Research suggests stem cells may get stuck as hair ages and lose their ability to mature and maintain hair colour. Certain stem cells – which are able to develop into many different cell types – have a unique ability to transition between growth compartments in follicles. These cells lose the ability to move with age, resulting in greyness.

Scientists focused on cells in the skin of mice within their study, but concluded that if their findings hold true for humans they could open up a potential way to reverse or prevent grey hair.

Qi Sun, the study’s Lead Investigator and a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health, said: ‘The newfound mechanisms raise the possibility that the same fixed-positioning of melanocyte stem cells may exist in humans.

‘If so, it presents a potential pathway for reversing or preventing the greying of human hair by helping jammed cells to move again between developing hair follicle compartments.’

However, this is not the first time that scientists have suggested that greying hair might be a partially reversible process – poor nutrition is one possible, treatable cause of premature greying alongside stress. Experts have stated that helping to manage anxiety levels may restore the pigmentation process for a while.

Other research suggests genetics, or our DNA, may also partly determine when we go grey.

Dr Yusure Al-Nuaimi from the British Hair and Nail Society said: ‘The recent study in mice adds to our understanding of the hair follicle and how the pigment-producing cells function.

‘We are already discovering more about the potential of stem cell therapies for conditions including hair loss and studies such as this one, with new findings about the colour-producing cells, may lead to an array of future treatment options for our patients.’

Image: Phil S


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