Scientists identify the genes behind gray hair, curly hair, beard thickness, and the
Some genes decide the color of your hair, while other, considerably less friendly genes
influence whether or not you go bald. Now, a University College London study has
identified the DNA behind gray hair, curly hair, beard thickness, and even the humble
monobrow. The researchers say their results confirm long-held suspicions nursed by
unmarried aunts — going gray simply runs in the family.
We humans have lost most of our body hair over time, yet the abundance of head hair
we’ve managed to retain throughout our evolution varies tremendously from individual to
individual, and not just among those who regularly drop a Benjamin at the salon. According
to the researchers, the appearance of our hair is mostly an inheritance game as evidenced
by the obvious ...view middle of the document...
The hair volunteers, 55
percent women, came from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. The group included
people with a wide variety of hair, from a wide variety of backgrounds, including
mixed European (48 percent), Native American (46 percent), and African (6 percent).
After assessing the volunteers’ hair, the team compared individual features to whole
genome results in order to identify which genes influenced appearance.
The gene matching gray hair is IRF4, which also plays a role in hair color, the researchers
said. In fact, this helps regulate production and storage of melanin, the pigment that
influences hair, skin, and eye color. Gray hair is caused by an absence of melanin so
understanding more about how this works could contribute to the development of new
cosmetics that block or delay the gray before it begins, the researchers imagine.
The researchers also discovered that gene PRSS53 influences hair curliness; EDAR, beard
thickness and hair shape; FOXL2, eyebrow thickness; and PAX3, the monobrow.
These findings may also be used for more serious purposes, such as helping scientists
create forensic technologies for establishing a visual profile based on an individual’s genetic
makeup, the researchers said. Prototypes in this field have already been developed based
on samples derived exclusively from people of European descent. These new results would
flesh out investigative reconstructions in Latin America and East Asia.
The study results may also help researchers better understand the biology of aging, the
team said. Apparently, Adhikari and his co-authors don't seem to understand that simply
identifying the gene behind gray hair, which could lead to permanently ending the "salt and
pepper" look, is plenty good for most of us.
Source: Adhikaria K, Fontanil T, Cal S, et al. A genome-wide association scan in admixed
Latin Americans identifies loci influencing facial and scalp hair features. Nature