Why does hair turn gray with age? And can you do something about it? Scientists from the USA have devoted themselves to these questions and they may actually have found the reason why human hair loses its natural color. The study results of the research group led by scientists from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine indicate that stem cells are the decisive factor in hair turning gray with age.

It was previously known that the pigment melanin is largely responsible for the color of the hair. Melanin production decreases with age. Our hair turns grey. However, it is unclear why the pigment is no longer produced so reliably over the years. The US researchers are now providing an approach that could explain why the concentration of melanin decreases with age. The study suggests that the precursors to pigment cells, called melanocyte stem cells, behave differently than other stem cells in the body.

In contrast to “normal” stem cells, the melanocytes apparently do not develop stringently into pigment cells, but remain in their original form or develop back into their “immature” state. Whether they develop into “mature” pigment cells also depends on their location.

According to the researchers, the development into a pigment cell that colors the hair is only possible if the melanocytes migrate to the hair root. With age, these cells apparently become more and more sluggish – their mobility decreases and they migrate to the roots less often. That is why they appear to develop less and less frequently into pigment cells. The result: our hair is increasingly graying. “This suggests that melanocyte stem cell mobility and their reversible differentiation are key to healthy, colored hair,” says senior author Mayumi Ito of NYU Langone Health.

The research focused on cells in the skin of mice that are also found in humans. The scientists see a therapeutic approach in the study results, as lead researcher Qi Sun explains: “The newly discovered mechanisms raise the possibility that the problem in us humans is also stuck melanocyte stem cells. If we help these cells to move again come on, it could prevent or even reverse the graying of the hair.”

Source: study