Scientists may have uncovered the mechanism behind greying hair

This could lead to treatments that halt or even reverse the process.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Hair turning grey.jpg
Hair turning grey.


Scientists led by researchers from New York University Grossman school of medicine may have discovered the mechanism behind why hair turns grey. The find may now lead to the development of treatments to reverse or halt the process allowing people to maintain a glorious mane regardless of their age.

This is according to a report by The Guardian published on Friday.

The new research that looked at cells in the skin of mice( that are also found in humans) called melanocyte stem cells, or McSCs, indicates that stem cells may get stuck as hair ages and lose their ability to mature and maintain hair color.

The study’s lead investigator, Qi Sun, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health, told The Guardian: “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,” Sun added.

Losing a chameleon-like function

A senior investigator on the study, Mayumi Ito, added: “It is the loss of chameleon-like function in melanocyte stem cells that may be responsible for greying and loss of hair color.”

According to The Guardian, hair color is dependent on continually multiplying pools of McSCs within hair follicles that get a message to become mature cells and make the protein pigments responsible for color.

During normal hair growth cycles, the cells continually alternate between compartments of the developing hair follicle where McSCs are exposed to signals that affect their maturity.

McSCs transition between their most primitive stem cell state and the next stage of their maturation depending on where they are located.

However, as hair ages, sheds, and then continuously grows back, more and more McSCs get stuck in the stem cell compartment called the hair follicle bulge, where they are unable to produce color. Grey hair then settles in and begins to take over.

Other past studies have found that stress turns hair grey and that that process in indeed reversible.

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