Researchers at the Grossman School of Medicine at NYU have discovered new evidence as to why human hair loses its natural colour over time, which they believe can also be applied to preventing the greying of human hair. The study examined the melanocyte stem cells (McSCs) that control hair colour, and found that earlier in life, these cells can be remarkably dynamic. However, with age, these cells tend to slow down, getting trapped in what is known as the hair follicle bulge, meaning they do not get a chance to finish the job they were created to do. Reinforcing these cells could mean the end of grey hair, according to the team at NYU.
“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 graying of human hair by helping jammed cells move again,” said study leader, Qi Sun,a postdoctoral fellow at NYU Langone Health
Lab mice that had their hair “physically aged” by plucking and forced regrowth were observed to have a 15% higher concentration of McSCs stuck in that follicle bulge before their hairs were pulled. Following the intervention, the percentage of hairs that no longer had pigment generating abilities rose to nearly 50%. With the greater understanding of the stalled-out cells and their probable responsibility for loss of hair colour, researchers are now focusing on how to get the McSCs back on track.
The next research step will be “to investigate means of restoring motility of McSCs or of physically moving them back to their germ compartment, where they can produce pigment,” according to lead researcher Professor Mayumi Ito,PhD
Dr Doris Day, a dermatologist affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, commented that although the new study is interesting and needed, it is still “early days” for any human hair solution.