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20 May, Friday
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“Stress Turns Hair White,” Discovered by Scientists

Scientists say they may have discovered why stress makes hair turn white, and a possible way of stopping it happening without reaching for the dye (Readers may find a few of the details distressing). Read this latest report by Tropika Club.

Experiment on stress and mice

In experiments on mice, stem cells which control hair and skin colour became ruined after intense stress. At a chance finding, dark-furred mice turned completely white in weeks. The US and Brazilian researchers stated this route was worth investigating further to develop a drug that prevents hair colour loss from ageing.

Women and men can go grey any time from their mid-30s, with the time of parental hair colour change giving most of the clues on when. Even though it’s mostly down to the natural ageing process and genes, stress may play an important role.

"Stress Turns Hair White," Discovered by Scientists
The mouse before pain was induced (top) and some time afterwards (bottom image) (Credit: William Goncalves)

But scientists weren’t clear just how stress influenced the hairs on our minds. Researchers behind the study, published in Nature, in the Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard, believed the effects were connected to melanocyte stem cells, that produce melanin and are liable for hair and skin colour.

And while carrying out experiments on mice, they stumbled across evidence that this was the case.

“We now know for sure that anxiety is responsible to this particular change to your skin and hair, and how it functions,” says Prof Ya-Cieh Hsu, research author from Harvard University.

Read: Korean Scientists States Kimchi can Reverse Baldness

‘Damage is permanent’

Pain in mice triggered the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which makes their hearts beat faster and blood pressure rise, affecting the nervous system and causing acute stress. This procedure then sped up the depletion of stem cells that produced melanin in hair follicles.

“I anticipated stress was bad for your entire body,” explained Prof Hsu.

“But the detrimental effect of stress we discovered was beyond what I imagined.

“After just a few days, each one of the pigment-regenerating stem cells have been missing.

“Once they’re gone, you can not regenerate pigment any longer – that the damage is permanent.”

"Stress Turns Hair White," Discovered by Scientists

In another experiment, the researchers discovered that they could block the fluctuations by giving the mice an anti-hypertensive, which treats high blood pressure. And by comparing the genes of mice pain along with different mice, they can determine the protein involved in causing harm to stem cells from pressure.

“These findings aren’t a cure or treatment for grey hair,” Prof Hsu told the BBC.

“Our discovery, made in rodents, is just the beginning of a very long journey to finding an intervention for individuals.

“It also gives us an idea of how pressure might influence a number of different areas of the human body,” she explained.

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