While some proudly sport a silver mane, others unhappily face the arrival of grey hairs. The interesting news: scientists have identified a gene responsible for grey hair – a discovery they say could lead to new ways of delaying or preventing this natural sign of ageing.
The international team collected DNA samples from more than 6,000 volunteers of European, Native American and African descent. They discovered that the gene IRF4 regulates a natural hair, skin and eye pigment called melanin.
Hair gets its colour from pigments produced by cells called melanocytes that sit in the hair follicle – the root of the hair. As we age, the melanocytes stop producing pigment and the hair loses its natural colour, going grey.
Scientists believe there are many genetic as well as some environmental factors involved in greying and IRF4 is just one that we now know about.
As scientists learn more about the genetic and environmental causes of greying hair they may be able to manipulate genes to stop or even reverse the process. The future could see people taking a drug to change the expression of certain genes, turning blondes into brunettes or preventing grey hair.
And while we wait for these new developments with interest, for many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, going grey has become less of an unwanted side effect of growing older and more of a chic fashion statement. With Meryl Streep and Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench leading the way, they show us that it is absolutely possible to look stunning while embracing your natural style.