“New evidence” has been uncovered that shows how acute stress can lead to prematurely gray hair, the scientists said.
The research, which was published in the journal Nature, was led by a team from Harvard University in Massachusetts in the United States.
While studying the pain experienced by mice when injected with the resiniferatoxin toxin, they found that the subjects’ fur had turned white in a four-week period.
This inspired them to delve into the role of stress in making hair turn gray at an accelerated speed.
Scientists exposed the mice to different types of stressors, including pain, psychological stress and moderation.
Each stressor has been found to cause a depleted number of melanocyte stem cells (MeSC).
Melanocyte cells, which are found on each individual hair follicle, produce the pigment melanin, which determines the color of the hair.
A person’s supply of MeSC decreases over time, causing his hair to turn gray or white as he ages.
While previous research has shown an association between stress and premature graying, the exact biological mechanism has remained uncertain.
During their study, Harvard researchers noted that the stress experienced by the mice activated their sympathetic nervous system, triggering the release of the norepinephrine neurotransmitter.
but since then she has refreshed her locks to show off a more flowing style, which touches the shoulders, showing how her hair has grown, because sometimes she does.
The team found that the release of norepinephrine caused MeSC to “move away” from the hair follicles, causing the hair to turn gray accordingly.
Dr Ya-Chieh Hsu, Harvard professor of regenerative biology and senior author of the study, said that the study lays “the foundation for understanding how stress affects other body tissues and organs.”
“Understanding how our tissues change under stress is the key first step towards any treatment that can halt or restore the harmful impact of stress,” said Dr. Hsu, adding: “We still have a lot to learn in this area.”
In addition to assessing the impact of norepinephrine neurotransmitter release, the researchers also found that when mice were exposed to stress in their experiments, a specific gene caused the encoding of a protein called CDK.
When the mice were injected with a drug that hinders CDK encoding, this prevented their fur from turning white.
Dr Thiago Mattar Cunha, coauthor of the study and researcher of the Research Center on Inflammatory Diseases in São Paulo, Brazil, explained the significance of this discovery.
“This finding shows that CDK participates in the process and could therefore be a therapeutic target,” said Dr. Cunha
“It is too early to know if one day it will become a goal in clinical practice, but it is worth exploring further.”
The researchers said that although their findings may not provide a cure for gray hair, it is important to help understand how stress impacts various areas of the body.