With age, everyone’s hair tends to lose its color and slowly turn grey. This also happens earlier in life, when we deal with shocking situations, stress or diseases. Until now, nobody was certain about what was the exact cause of this natural phenomenon. However, according to a new study, which the journal PLOS Biology recently published, our immune system might play a key role when it comes to our hair turning gray because of stress or illness. The cells called melanocytes are the ones that produce melatonin, the substance that gives our hair its color.
However, when our hair falls out, other stem cells add melanocytes to the new follicles. The important thing is that when these stem cells stop working, hair also loses its pigment. So, a team of researchers wanted to investigate this phenomenon and did so on mice. For this new study, the team analyzed how our immune system responds to attacks and how it impacts the MITF protein. This is what actually helps the melanocyte stem cells function properly. They discovered that when the control of the interferon in melanocyte stem cells is lost, hair can turn grey.
The mystery of grey hair revealed
With this study, the team of researchers hopes to offer new insights into what could possibly cause certain diseases that affect pigmentation. An example is vitiligo, a disease that destroys the pigment cells of the skin. According to Melissa Harris, the lead author of the study, they were very interested in the genes that affect our stem cells. Grey hair is simply the easiest way to observe a melanocyte stem cell dysfunction.
Moreover, it seems that the genes that control the pigment in our hair also play a key role in controlling our immune system. This is extremely important to take into consideration for future studies.
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