Scientists Discover Genes That Cause Balding and Grey Hair

added 9th March 2016

The Nature journal has published a study report, including its breakthrough findings, from University College London where researchers have discovered genetic reasons for various hair-related characteristics from hair types to going grey, and developing hereditary hair loss.


Over six thousand people from various backgrounds were studied in order to produce novel data into the genes responsible for certain actions, such as why hair turns grey. Now, as the researchers have discovered for the first time that the IRF4 gene which is key in determining a person’s hair, eye and skin colouring, is also involved in the greying process, this knowledge is expected to be built upon. The cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries are likely to be particularly interested in using this information to develop ways to prevent grey hair from happening.


“We already know several genes involved in balding and hair colour but this is the first time a gene for greying has been identified in humans, as well as other genes influencing hair shape and density,” explains Dr Kaustubh Adhikari of UCL Cell & Developmental Biology, lead author of the study. Biosciences’ Professor Andrés Ruiz-Linares, further confirms, “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 hair greying.”
While the first ever link between greying hair and genetics was the outstanding discovery of the UCL study, other significant findings included locating the gene which causes people to have a ‘monobrow’, and the combinations of genes which work together to produce different hair types and textures for both scalp and facial hair.


The study authors also state that they discovered how the GRID1 and AR/EDA2R genes contribute to male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss which will undoubtedly help to further research into new treatments. Whilst the current primary hair loss treatments, finasteride 1mg for men and minoxidil for men and women, are effective at treating genetic hair loss, given the scale of the problem and how many people worldwide this condition affects, companies are constantly trying to develop novel means to deal with this type of thinning.

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