Getting To The Root Of Gray Hair
May 6, 2013

Scientists Get To The Root Of Grey Hair, ‘Cure’ Now On The Horizon

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

According to a new study in The Journal of the“¯Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), researchers from the UK and Germany may have found a ℠cure´ for grey hair and the skin condition known as vitiligo, which is marked by depigmentation in patches of skin.

"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair," said Dr. Gerald Weissman, Editor-in-Chief of“¯The FASEB Journal, "but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed.”

“While this is exciting news, what's even more exciting is that this also works for vitiligo,” he added. “This condition, while technically cosmetic, can have serious socio-emotional effects of people. Developing an effective treatment for this condition has the potential to radically improve many people's lives."

The research team found that people who are going gray accrue oxidative stress through the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicles, causing the hair to bleach from the inside out. According to the researchers, the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide can be remedied with a topical, UVB-activated compound called PC-KUS. The same treatment can also be used for vitiligo.

To reach their findings, the team recruited an international group of 2,411 patients with vitiligo. By studying the differences in skin proteins between vitiligo patients and those without the disease, the researchers found that two different chemicals build up in vitiligo-afflicted skin: peroxynitrite and hydrogen peroxide.

The researchers then asked five of their volunteers to apply a UVB-activated cream that effectively reduced the amount of hydrogen peroxide in the skin and eyelashes. Because the cream worked for both the hair and skin, the researchers said their findings could be translated into an anti-graying treatment.

"To date, it is beyond any doubt that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localized hair color can affect those individuals in many fundamental ways," said co-author Dr. Karin U. Schallreuter, from the Centre for Skin Sciences, School of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford. "The improvement of quality of life after total and even partial successful repigmentation has been documented."

While finding a treatment that reverses one of the telltale signs of ageing could prove to be a financial windfall for the researchers, a more dramatic impact would likely be an effective treatment for those who suffer from vitiligo and the social stigmas that come with it. Patients with vitiligo often suffer from mood disorders including depression and anxiety.

Currently, vitiligo is treated by exposing the affected regions of the skin to UVB radiation using special lamps. This treatment is most effective if the dipigmented areas are less than three months old, but repeated treatments for older spots can sometimes be effective after several months.

The most well known case of vitiligo is probably Michael Jackson, who announced that he had the disease in an extended interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1993.