Grey hair reveals DNA stress, say scientists


Tokyo: Stress can make your hair turn grey, according to a new study published in the medical journal Cell.

In a new study from Tokyo Medical and Dental University, researchers confirm that the daily wear and tear on our DNA from damage caused by chemicals, ultraviolet light, and ionizing radiation, may be responsible.

according to study lead author Emi Nishimura of Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

Lead reseracher Emi Nishimura said that cells can undergo up to 100,000 events a day that damage DNA.The stem cells within hair follicles responsible for colour are most affected by this constant attack.

Stem cells are cells in the body that can reproduce indefinitely and that have the potential to “mature” into other, more specialized cells. The stem cells in hair follicles mature into melanocytes, or cells that produce the pigment melanin.

In younger people, the hair’s stem cells maintain a balance between those that reproduce and those that turn into pigment cells, so that pigment is constantly being added to growing hair.

But as a person ages, too many of the stem cells mature until the pool of pigment cells gets totally drained and hair grows gray.

Scientists have been unsure what exactly spurs the stem cells to change. According to Nishimura, the answer may be accumulated DNA damage.

Forcing the cells to mature may be the body’s “more sophisticated way” of purging the damaged stem cells without killing them off, she said.

The study focused on greying because it is a typical sign of ageing in mammals, the authors wrote.

The researchers put laboratory mice through whole-body x-rays and chemical injections.

When the team examined the mice’s hair follicles, they found that the stem cells showed permanent damage. These mice then regrew hair with no pigment.

The research supports the idea that instability in genes may be a major factor in aging, the authors say. It also lends credence to the theory that damage to stem cells may be the main driver of aging.

The DNA damage observed in the study is mainly “unavoidable,” the authors write.

However, the study helps scientists understand graying, Cheng said by email, which may lead to new chemicals that can prevent the hair’s stem cells from switching roles.

“We may soon have anti-greying creams for aging populations,” he said.

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Follicles grown in new baldness cure

London: A new treatment for baldness, in which a patient’s own hair follicles are cultured in a laboratory and reinjected into the scalp, is being tested on UK patients.

The treatment is being developed by Manchester-based Intercytex, with the help of £1.9m cash from the British government.

The procedure works by collecting the stronger hair follicles at the back of the head and reproducing them. After eight weeks there should be millions of cells but because several injections would be required it is thought that the procedure will not necessarily be viable in restoring whole heads of hair.

As well as lotions, creams and pills there are advanced surgical procedures such as follicular unit transplant, in which healthy hair follicles are grated from the side of the head to bald areas. But this is very expensive, requires several operations and takes many hours to carry out.

The potential market for a baldness cure is huge – 40% of men aged over 50 are afected.

The most daunting part of the procedure is that a typical bare pate would need about 1,000 injections to establish enough new hair follicles. Each injection would penetrate just 3mm into the skin and would be done under local anaesthetic.

The procedure has been tested on seven volunteers at the Farjo Medical Centre, a commercial hair restoration clinic. The first volunteers received injections of hair follicle cells into small patches on their scalps. The number of hairs in the treated area increased from 250 before the treatment to 316 after.

Dr Bessam Farjo said the trials at this clinic indicated that the new procedure would be faster and cheaper than current surgical methods.