Grey hair is something many people have no interest in.
Sure, it may be trendy to have granny-coloured hair on Instagram, and we’re all for rocking what’s natural if you want to, but if we’re being honest, the first spotting of those pesky greys can be a little disconcerting.
And don't even get us started on balding ... because that's something most of us want to avoid at all costs, too.
So you'll be thrilled to hear that while University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre researchers were studying a rare genetic disease, they accidentally stumbled upon the cells that cause our hair to grey.
And it has something to do with a protein called KROX20 that could potentially get rid of both greys and baldness.
Here’s where the science comes in.
In a new study published this week in the journal Genes & Development, researchers working on mice discovered that KROX20, which is usually associated with nerve development, acts as a switch to turn scalp cells in hair shafts — which then allows cells to create something called stem cell factor (SCF). And SCF matters because it’s responsible for the pigment in your hair.
So when researchers removed the SCF protein from cells in mice, their hair turned white. And when the KROX20 protein was deleted, the mice went bald.
Allure notes that hair pigmentation does not have a backup system, so when SCFs are altered and their level falls below a certain threshold, there is no support for the protein. The result? White hair.
"With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems," Dr. Lu Le, associate professor of dermatology with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Centre at UT Southwestern, told Time.
But what does that really mean? Possibly, that there may just be a cure for greys.
It's important to note that this study was done working with mice. So naturally, more research is needed to understand if the process works similarly in humans.
This breakthrough comes after researchers in London identified the gene for greying hair. The study, published last year, showed genetics play a role, and the gene, IRF4, regulates the production and storage of melanin (which gives our skin, hair and eyes colour).
Though of course, if you love rocking your grey hair and embrace being a silver fox, we say all the power to you!
This is one small step for man, one giant leap for our hair.
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