The popular belief that the hair turns gray due to stress has been persistent since ages. When an article appeared in 2009, citing Obama’s hair turning dramatically gray after his stay in White house for 45 days didn’t surprise many. The hair turning grey within a short time has been the subject of many researchers. But until now, there is no breakthrough citing the causes behind it. In a path-breaking research, scientists at Harward University successfully decoded the reason behind hair turning grey. The complete details of the research study are published in the Journal Nature.
How Harvard Research Solved The Mystery of Hair turning Grey due to Stress?
Scientists did formulate many hypotheses for hair turning grey, but none of them proved to be correct. For instance, the initial hypothesis was that stress causing immune cells eliminated the pigment-producing cells in the hair follicles. Later, it is speculated that Stress-induced hormone Cortisol is the main reason for mice’s hair turning grey. But when the scientists removed the Adrenal gland producing Cortisol from mice and exposed them to stress, still the hair turned grey.
In the initial breakthrough, the scientists then found that mice hair turned grey due to the depletion of stem cells present in the hair follicles. Stem cells turn into pigment-producing cells inline with the growth of the hair follicle. But in cases of stress, they are overactivated and depletes the reservoir of pigment-producing stem cells. However, the mechanism behind the stress-activated stem cells responsible for graying hair is unknown. Later on, scientists discovered norepinephrine to be the main trigger behind the depletion of stem cells.
Scientists then turned their focus on the primary source of epinephrine, i.e., Adrenal Gland. But when they removed the adrenal gland and exposes the mice to stress, still the mice’s hair turned grey. They then focussed their attention on another source of epinephrine, i.e., the Sympathetic Nervous system, also known as the fight or flight system. The neurotransmitter is responsible for the mass migration of stem cells from the base of the hair follicle. It is the main reason for the mice’s hair turning grey. The damage is permanent, and it is not reversible under any circumstance. The new research sheds light on how acutes stress impacts the activity of stem cells. It paves the way for developing methods to prevent hair greying. Also, the research serves as an inspiration to examine more ways to study the effects of stress on various organs of the body.