Having Premature Gray Hair Folks! Blame your Immune System

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University of Alabama at Birmingham, gray hair, immune system, premature
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Yeah, Folks! Gray hair may be due to modulation in our immune system, newly identified research in University of Alabama at Birmingham published in 2018. Few past studies, we know has a connection with biological functions of the body.

Our hair is infact naturally white, but it is colored by a pigment called melanin, produced by special cells called melanocytes. These are deeply present in hair follicles but later as hair grows, it is infused with melanin. Have we ever thought of that in some individuals after a certain illness or owing to chronic stress, their hair may turn gray in some of the cases. The exact reasons for this have not been figured out.

When a body undergoes attack from a virus or bacteria, the innate immune system begins to defend the body. Commonly, all cells have the ability to detect a foreign attack, they respond by producing signalling molecules called interferon’s, which tell other cells to take action by turning on the expression of genes that inhibit viral replication, activate immune effector cells and therefore enhance the host defenses.

In this research project, they engineered mice whose melanocyte precursors showed lower levels of MITF. The study titled “A direct link between MITF, innate immunity, and hair graying” was published in the journal PLOS Biology on May 3.  MITF (melanogenesis-associated transcription factor) is responsible to control the genes of hair color pigment.T he laboratory where the experiment was conducted the scientists infact utilized the potential of mouse models of hair graying to fully comprehend stem cells and aging. The stem cells they studied were the melanocyte stem cells in the hair follicle, which were indispensable for producing melanocytes.

mouse, gary hair, folksThis mouse is engineered to go grey earlier than normal, a process that may also be triggered by infection. Credit: Melissa Harris

Have we ever thought of that in some individuals after a certain illness or owing to chronic stress, their hair may turn gray in some of the cases. The exact reasons for this have not been figured out. The principal researcher Dr. Harris shared findings,

“Genomic tools,” she says, “allow us to assess how all of the genes within our genome change their expression under different conditions, and sometimes they change in ways that we don’t anticipate. We are interested in genes that affect how our stem cells are maintained over time.”

The researchers studied mice that were bred to develop premature gray hair and found an excessive production of MITF. The new research found that MITF may actually turn off genes for an anti-virus, immune protein called interferon. When the researchers stimulated an anti-virus response in the mice, it was found that the mice having low levels of this protein finally ended up losing melanocytes and developing gray fur.

 

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