A new study by researchers at New York University has discovered more information about why human hair turns gray as we age. They focused on pigment cells that control hair color and found evidence that studying these cells could lead to a possible solution for graying hair. The study was reported by the “Daily Mail” newspaper.
After studying white hair in aged mice, scientists from Grossman College discovered something about melanocyte stem cells. These cells, which control hair color, are also present in humans.
The cells in the hair follicle move between different areas during the growth phase and are exposed to varying levels of protein signaling.
The study found that the percentage of hair follicles with stem cells that were no longer able to move increased from 15% in young hair to over 50% in older hair.
Lack of pigment cells
As we age, the stem cells which maintain hair color function properly. However, the congenital stem cells slow down with hair loss and regrowth, resulting in a condition known as hair follicle bulging.
The absence of pigment cells causes hair to lose its color, resulting in a whitish-gray shade that many people dislike.
Ki Sun, who led the study, stated that the newly discovered mechanisms suggest that there could be a similar fixed locus of melanocyte stem cells in humans.
He said that if they can help the stacked cells move between different parts of developing hair follicles, it could potentially reverse or prevent graying of human hair. Their current focus is on finding ways to restore the function of stem cells responsible for producing hair dye.
The key to maintaining hair color
Lead researcher Mayumi Otei explained that the reason for graying and loss of hair color may be due to the loss of pigment function in melanocyte stem cells, similar to how chameleons change color. These findings suggest that the key to maintaining hair health and color is the movement of melanocyte stem cells and reversible differentiation.