The ‘key’ to stopping hair from going grey may have been discovered

How to reduce the appearance of grey hairs

Whether you embrace your grey hairs or prefer to disguise them, new research has tapped into the science behind the tell-tale sign of ageing. What’s more, the findings could help pave the way for keeping your hair healthy and coloured.

While grey hair has managed to break through the layer of stigma in the last decade, a new study proposes a solution for those who dread going silver.

A team led by researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine might have found the first step to stopping hair from losing its original colour.

The researchers found that certain stem cells have the unique ability to move between growth compartments in hair follicles.

However, as your hair ages, sheds and repeatedly grows back, more stem cells become stuck in a compartment called the hair follicle bulge.

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These hairs can’t travel back to their original location, where proteins can help them regenerate into pigment cells.

Unfortunately, this position leaves your hair losing its usual colour, resulting in a silver tint.

The new study observed physically-aged hairs of mice by focusing on cells in the skin of the animals which can be also found in humans called melanocyte stem cells or MsCs.

Your hair colour is dictated by whether non-functional but continually multiplying pools of McSCs within hair follicles receive the signal necessary for making the protein pigments responsible for giving hair its colour.

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The good news is that the study found the McSCs are “plastic” or adaptable, meaning that during normal hair growth, they continually move back and forth on the maturity axis as they move between compartments of the developing hair follicle.

The problem occurs when they stop moving and get stuck in the stem cell compartment called the hair follicle bulge.

Once stuck, the McSCs remain in the bulge and fail to keep their colour.

The researchers explained that McSC adaptability is not present in other self-regenerating stem cells, such as those making up the hair follicle itself, which are known to move in only one direction along an established timeline as they mature.

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The study’s lead investigator, Dr Qi Sun, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health, said: “Our study adds to our basic understanding of how melanocyte stem cells work to colour hair.

“The newfound mechanisms raise the possibility that the same fixed-positioning of melanocyte stem cells may exist in humans.

“If so, it presents a potential pathway for reversing or preventing the greying of human hair by helping jammed cells to move again between developing hair follicle compartments.”

Another researcher, Dr Mayumi Ito, compared hair’s ability to retain its colour to a chameleon-like function.

The expert explained that maintaining this mechanism could be “key” to keeping hair healthy and your usual colour.

Dr Ito Dr said: “It is the loss of chameleon-like function in melanocyte stem cells that may be responsible for greying and loss of hair colour.

“These findings suggest that melanocyte stem cell motility and reversible differentiation are key to keeping hair healthy and coloured.”

The research team now plans to focus on how to restore the motility of McSCs or means of physically moving them back to their germ compartment, where they can produce pigment, in the hope to stop hairs from going grey.

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