All women have different approaches to going gray: You might fear it and make an appointment with a colorist immediately, or you might decide to gracefully grow out your gray hair. But if you're of the camp that wants to eradicate this sign of aging, we have some very good news for you.
According to a new study at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, scientists may have found the cure for gray hair. While observing the formation of certain cancerous tumors in mice, researchers discovered that a protein called stem cell factor (or SCF) is responsible for hair pigmentation. In fact, getting rid of it makes hair turn white.
This news comes as an exciting revelation, as researchers now know what happens when stem cells move down to the base of hair follicles and which cells in the hair follicle produce SCF. Cells with SCF interact with cells that create pigmentation to ultimately produce colored hairs. Scientists discovered that mice without cells containing the protein had hair that turned gray, then white with age.
"Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair,” Dr. Lu Le, the associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern, said in a press release. “With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems.”
So basically, a cure for gray hair—without the use of harsh dyes—could be on the horizon.
Armed with this information, scientists are now trying to determine if SCF cells lose their ability to function as people get older. And in addition to finding a solution to our gray-hair woes, researchers will be looking closer at the reason why we age in general.
What exciting news!