Humans have always wondered just what causes gray hair and baldness. Lots of theories have been put forth over the years, and now scientists believe that they’ve finally discovered the reason. They found certain proteins that can either lead to perfect hair, or to none at all.
A recent study discovered that these proteins are most likely KRO20 and/or SCF or stem cell factor. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers conducted the study. A research study paper was released in Genes & Development.
KRO20, also called KROX20 is a protein that’s already been associated with the development of nerve tissue. During this study, it was shown to “turn on” in skin cells that transform over time into hair shafts, or progenitors. The cells make SCF, which then links to a receptor called KIT and is responsible for the regulation of melanocytes.
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These are cells which produce melanin and give the hair, eyes, and skin their color. SCF in combination with KRO20 helps hair obtain its pigment and also grow. The stem cells found in the bulge of the hair follicles move down into the follicle’s base or bulb. There, they produce the KRO20 protein and then move back up the bulb to work with the melanocytes to give the hair its color.
It’s believed that if either one of these proteins is missing, the process does not operate the way it should. Specifically, the lack of KRO20 may lead to baldness. The absence of SCF was linked to graying hair.
So far, the studies have been carried out with mice, so more trials still need to be conducted. These may help determine if the interactions or death of SCF and/or KRO20 lead to the same hair problems in humans. If they do, it might be possible to create a topical formula that can prevent both hair loss and graying hair.
“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,” stated Dr. Lu Le, the study lead researcher.
Some scientists believe this research can also show why people age at all. Or even why going bald and getting gray hairs are early signs of growing older.
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