New study in the preprint repository bioRxiv offers hope by indicating that the graying process isn’t necessarily permanent, and that gray hairs can regain their original color when stress levels are low.
Growing Old is something that’s inevitable in the human race. And a lot of people struggle with this, as the sight of their once nice looking body getting wrinkles leaves deep psychological scars. Getting gray hair is often the first sign that the youth days are coming close to an end. Although, a study in the preprint repository bioRxiv offers hope by indicating that the graying process isn’t necessarily permanent. And those gray hairs can regain their original color when stress levels become low.
In other to carry out their research, the authors of the study gathered hairs from 14 people of multiple ethnic backgrounds. After which they searched for samples that were gray at the root but colored at the tip. (which shows that they are in the process of turning gray). Surprisingly to them, however, they also found various hairs that became less gray towards the root. Implying that they were in a way restoring back to their previous color.
They then carried out a proteomic analysis of their collected samples. They did this to ascertain the differing protein profiles of gray and colored hairs. The results revealed that gray hairs consisted of a large amount of upregulated mitochondrial proteins. (that are usually involved with energy metabolism). Interestingly, a lot of these proteins are also known to become upregulated in response to stress. And they have been linked with several other age-related features like DNA degradation. Particularly, though, many of these effects can be reversed by changes to lifestyle. Such as making sure to get a healthier diet or carrying out physical exercise on a daily basis.
Having a little belief that stress levels may have played a role in the regaining of the previous color before gray hairs, the team of scientists requested that participants explain their most and less stressful moments of the past 12 months, essentially providing precise dates for these events. Using the basis that hair grows at a rate of about 0.4 inches per month, the authors of the study were then able to match up sections of each hair with particular life events.
The results revealed that the regaining of hair color always correlated with moments of specifically low stress. The most intriguing example was one of a 30-year-old Asian woman. Her hair sample included a band of grey measuring 0.8 inches, beneath which is returned to its former color. As it turned out, the gray section matched up exactly to a two-month period of high stress. (during which she separated from her husband).
Another participant also got back the original color of his hair after a two-week vacation. This points out just how fast the transformation of gray to the original color can occur. In fact, the scientists hit upon a piece of evidence that reveals a hair can fully turn to gray, or undergo a full reversal of that process, in a short time. (like 3.7 days). Although on average it takes about two to three months for these changes to occur.
It is of importance to note that the team only studied individual hairs. And no one is saying that an entire head of gray hair can be restored to its original color by just relaxing for a few weeks. Although the authors of the study record that their discovery nonetheless provides categorical proof that “human aging is not a linear and irreversible biological process and may, at least in part, be halted or even reversed.”
Getting a significant regaining of hair color is most likely to be very difficult without the use of targeted drugs. Although now that they have identified the proteins responsible for the graying process, it may be possible to start developing pharmaceuticals for this purpose.