Category Archives: Grey Hair Genes

Key Grey Hair, Monobrow, Hair Thickness and Shape Genes Discovered

I did not want to write a second post today and take away from the much needed discussion to the last post. However, a major discovery was just announced today and widely covered by the global media  (e.g., see BBC article, Telegraph article and Washington Post article).

Hair Related Genes

Key genes for grey hair, monobrows, hair thickness, hair shape and more were discovered by a team led by Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari. The global media has largely focused on the grey hair issue.

Interestingly, the team did all their research in Latin America, the global hotspot of human genetic diversity due to the region’s large populations of Caucasoids/Whites, Natives/Indians and Negroids/Blacks.  Brazil is also home to the largest population of Japanese (Mongoloids) outside of Japan. An impressive 6,630 volunteers were studied. Key discoveries (see study published today in “Nature Communications):

  • The IRF4 gene’s presence seems correlated with an earlier loss of hair color. Also see my post on the cure for grey hair.
  • Unibrows (or monobrows) are associated with a gene called PAX3.
  • The EDAR gene is associated with straight scalp hair and sparse facial hair — both of which are common features in East Asian men.
  • The PRSS53 gene is linked to curly hair.

Human hair genome diagram.

Some interesting quotes:

“The finding could mean that changing hair or eye color could be possible without using dyes. It would simply be a matter of taking a drug which changed the expression of certain genes to alter appearance, turning blondes into brunettes or preventing grey hair.”

“Preventing grey hair is a possibility and even reversing grey hair might not be impossible. Once we know more about the pigmentation process, and all the genes involved it should be easy to find a protein or enzyme to up-regulate or down-regulate the activity.”

“Elucidating the genetic architecture of normal variation in hair traits has implications outside basic bioscience. Among human visible phenotypes hair appearance is perhaps the mostly easily modified, a feature prominently exploited by the cosmetics industry. This industry has traditionally focused on the development of products altering the appearance of keratinous hair fibres after their exit from the skin surface. However, there is currently great interest in exploring whether hair appearance can be modified as it is formed in the hair follicle.”