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BioTech Times (Índia)

Scientists find new clue on why stress makes hair turn white

Publicado em 24 janeiro 2020

A yet another cutting edge discovery, the reason behind Grey hair; stress. Scientists have recently discovered why does stress makes the hair go white, and a possible way of stopping it, and ditching the dye.

The search for a suitable hair dye begins in the late 30s and early 40s, which marks the beginning of the whitening of hair in men and women. Various studies have been done, to come to a conclusion of a cure.

Researchers behind the study, published in nature, from the universities of Harvard and Sao Paulo, did experiment on stem cells of mice. They studied stem cells that are responsible for controlling the colour of hair and skin. In the experiment, the mice turned white from dark brown colour, within a span of a few weeks, when exposed to stressful conditions.

Although, the major causes behind the whitening of hair remains ageing and genes which we inherit from our parents. But scientists believe, that stress has a major role to play behind the Grey hair, which was eventually proved after the mice experiment.

“For the longest time it’s been said that stress makes the hair turn white but until now there was no scientific basis for this belief. Our study proved that the phenomenon does indeed occur, and we identified the mechanisms involved. In addition, we discovered a way of interrupting the process of hair color loss due to stress,” said Thiago Mattar Cunha, a researcher affiliated with the Center for Research on Inflammatory Diseases

In the experiment, the whitening of hair was coupled with the melanocyte stem cells, which are responsible for producing melanin, the protein behind the colour of our skin and hair.

Image comparing mice submitted to pain-inducing experiment, which resulted in loss of pigmentation [bottom], to dark-colored mice in the control group.

During the experiment, the mice were subjected to pain, and in response to that induced the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which resulted in high blood pressure, faster heartbeats which affected the nervous system, eventually causing acute stress.

“We were conducting a study on pain using black C57 mice, a dark-furred laboratory strain,” he said. “In this model, we administered a substance called resiniferatoxin to activate a receptor expressed by sensory nerve fibers and induce intense pain. Some four weeks after systemic injection of the toxin, a Ph.D. student observed that the animals’ fur had turned completely white.”

Image comparing mice submitted to pain-inducing experiment, which resulted in loss of pigmentation [bottom], to dark-colored mice in the control group.

This finally led to the fast diminution of stem cells that produced melanin in hair follicles. Within a few days, most of the pigment regenerating stem cells were gone.

Moreover, once they are lost, you can’t rejuvenate pigment anymore- the damage is irreversible.

And by comparing the genes of mice in pain with other mice devoid of pain, the scientists were able to identify the protein involved in causing damage to the stem cells from stress.

The protein identified was a CDK- Cyclin-Dependent Kinases. When this protein was suppressed, there was no change of colour observed in the mice. Thus, this clearly points towards the possibility of delaying the whitening of hair by targeting CDK and gradually suppressing it with the help of drugs.

Although, these findings are not a permanent or sure shot cure of Grey hair. But, rather it marks the beginning of a long journey to find a potent solution to the problems that come with Grey hair.

It also gives us a glimpse of how stress affects different parts of our body, and how it is the need of the hour to be stress-free.

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