For most people grey hair and/or going bald is rather scary aspect related to ageing. It is a fact that hair can entirely alter your look and is closely associated with self esteem.

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Recently I ran into a schoolmate of mine, after 30 years!! Now that’s a really really long time and all of us by now are struggling with the same issues, Grey Hair, broader waists, balding heads…..mid-life crisis and all of us like to believe none of it matters but somewhere it does. As we got talking I asked him if the magic fairy granted you one wish right now what would you ask for and without hesitation he said a head full of  thick black hair!!! Now unless you look like Richard Gere grey hair matters!!:-)

In fact for most people it’s the single most important factor which defines youth and looks. Although lot of times we try to rationalise it.

All those self consoling mechanisms can be set aside for scientists have recently found possible ways to reverse grey hair and balding at ANY AGE. Isn’t that  an excellent piece of good news.

Scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center accidentally discovered— in mouse—while studying a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves.

“Although this project was started to understand how certain kinds of tumours form, we ended up learning why hair turns grey and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair,” said lead researcher Lu Le from the University.

“We accidentally, serendipitously, discovered the cell that directly gives rise to hair. That was new,” said Le, associate professor in the department of dermatology with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Le discovered that a protein called KROX20 plays a role not just in nerve development but in hair color and growth.The KROX20 protein turns on skin cells that develop into shafts of hair. These cells then produce a protein called stem cell factor (SCF) that is essential for hair colour. When that SCF protein was deleted from mice in KROX20 cells, their hair turned grey and then white. And when the scientists deleted the KROX20 cells, the mice turned bald.  “The mice turned grey and then completely white. That was unexpected,” Le said.

The black mouse (top) is the control mouse, and the grey-haired mouse resulted from having SCF deleted in the KROX20 cells.

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The implications of this research are immense and give hope to people in areas of reversing grey hair and baldness. Le said, “Preventing grey hair is a possibility and even reversing grey hair might not be impossible. Once we know more about the pigmentation process, and all the genes involved it should be easy to find a protein or enzyme to up-regulate or down-regulate the activity.”

While in another study Researchers at University College London have also discovered the gene(IRF-4) responsible for grey hair and are confident that it will be possible to create drugs or cosmetics to switch it off.

Professor Andres Ruiz-Linares, UCL Biosciences, who led the study, said: “We have found the first genetic association to hair greying, which could provide a good model to understand aspects of the biology of human aging.

“Understanding the mechanism of the IRF4 greying association could also be relevant for developing ways to delay or reverse hair greying.”Greying is caused by the depletion of melanin, which is responsible for the pigment in hair, skin and eyes, making blondes lighter and brunettes darker.

The finding could mean that changing hair or eye colour could be possible without using dyes. It would simply be a matter of taking a drug which changed the expression of certain genes to alter appearance , change hair colour and preventing grey hair.

This may be the most life altering research of this century and may change the concept of ageing forever. And definitely its going to make most of us Happier except the billion dollar hair dye industry perhaps.

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