Scientists think they have uncovered the mechanism underlying the graying of hair, which could aid in the development of drugs that alter cells to slow or even stop the process!
According to a recent study, stem cells may stop maturing and get stuck like that, therefore losing their capacity to maintain hair color as hair ages.
Some stem cells, which can differentiate into a wide variety of cell types, have the unusual capacity to move between follicle growth compartments.
With time, these cells become less mobile and become grey.
The study concentrated on melanocyte stem cells, or McSCs, which are cells found in both human and mouse skin.
The team of scientists started by hypothesizing that if their results hold true in humans, it may be possible to prevent or even reverse gray hair, allowing people to keep their natural hair color even in their later years.
Qi Sun, a postdoctoral fellow from NYU Langone Health and the study’s lead investigator, explains that “The newly found mechanisms raise the possibility that the same fixed positioning of melanocyte stem cells may exist in people. If so, it presents a possible pathway for reversing or preventing the greying of human hair by helping jammed cells to just move again between developing hair follicle compartments.”
Whether or not the signal to mature cells that produce the protein pigments responsible for color is received by pools of McSCs that are constantly multiplying within hair follicles determines the color of the hair.
According to research, cells in the developing hair follicle constantly move between compartments as the hair grows normally.
The signals that affect maturity are presented to McSCs inside these compartments.
According to their location, researchers discovered that McSCs switch between their most basic stem cell state and the following stage of their maturation.
The results show that a growing proportion of McSCs get trapped in the stem cell compartment, also known as the hair follicle bulge, where they linger, as hair matures, falls off, and grows back, repeatedly.
Mayumi Ito, who is a senior investigator of the study, shares that “It is the loss of chameleon-like function in melanocyte stem cells that may be responsible for greying and loss of hair color.”