Scientists Identify the Genes Associated With Gray Hair and Unibrows

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For the first time, scientists have identified the gene that makes your hair go gray. As part of a study published in Nature Communications, they also identified a new set of gene variations associated with features like unibrows, thick facial hair, and curls.

Led by geneticists at University College London, a group of researchers analyzed the genomes of more than 6300 Latin Americans (54 percent female, 46 percent male) from Brazil, Colombia, Chile, México and Peru to find the genes associated with the features of both scalp and facial hair. They looked for associations between certain genetic features and traits like hair color, propensity toward graying or balding, beard thickness, eyebrow bushiness, and unibrows. The blood samples used in the study came from a diverse population with mixed European, Native American, and African ancestries.

The gene linked to graying, IRF4, helps regulate and store melanin (the pigment that also determines skin color). Other genes studied included a variant of the FOXL2 gene that seems to be associated with brow thickness, and PAX3, the gene that dictates whether or not you have a unibrow—at least in men. (While both men and women were tested for genetic associations with scalp hair, only men were tested for facial hair characteristics.)

By finding the genes associated with hair features, scientists may be able to develop ways to change your hair without curling irons, dyes, and cosmetic products. Though it’s a long way away, there could one day be a drug for straightening your hair, to halt your graying at that perfect salt-and-pepper color, or to remove your unibrow. It could also illuminate the mechanisms behind diseases associated with baldness. But really—get working on that anti-unibrow drug, science.  

[h/t Scientific American]