Sure, you can dye your hair if it goes gray. And you can always add a toupee or wig if you’re bald. Both of these options assume, of course, that you don’t want to rock your natural look (which some people do like total bosses).
But if you want to avoid being gray or bald naturally, these new findings may be just the hope you needed.
Scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center accidentally stumbled upon a major discovery. While studying the nature of tumors, Dr. Lu Le and his research team isolated a cell that directly affects hair follicles. They published their full findings in Genes & Development.
The researchers found a protein that causes skin cells to transform into hair shafts. The protein, which was previously associated with nerve development, is called KROX20. When researchers removed the cells that were able to produce this protein, it turned their test mice bald.
The team also found that the hair shafts themselves produce another protein called stem cell factor (or SCF). When researchers then removed SCF from those cells, the mice’s hair turned gray.
Both of these findings were discovered unintentionally.
But their cosmetic implications are profound.
Some elements of their findings are not completely new. Scientists already knew that certain stem cells were involved in stimulating hair follicles, and that SCF was important to pigmentation. But this study isolates in detail exactly what happens when those cells move down to the base of the hair follicles.
Plus, they now realize that both KROX20 and SCF seem to be necessary to create pigmented hair growth.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of learning exactly how and why hair grows, disappears, and goes gray. These findings provide a possible foundation for many future experiments to better understand human hair. And it could even give insight into the aging process on a cellular level.
This is all pretty fascinating stuff, and we look forward to these brilliant researchers discovering even more.