Scientists discover correlation between stress and white hair

    A group of scientists might have discovered why people under a lot of stress have their hair turned white in their early ages.

    According to an article from BBC, researchers from the Universities of Sao Paulo and Harvard have published a study on why stressed people tend to have white hair. Observing experiments on mice, they concluded that acute stress leads to hair greying through the fast depletion of melanocyte stem cells.

    The melanocytes control hair pigmentation and they are controlled by sympathetic nerves. Under conditions of stress, the activation of these sympathetic nerves leads to burst release of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine). This causes quiescent melanocyte stem cells to proliferate rapidly, and is followed by their differentiation, migration and permanent depletion from the niche.

    Men and women can go grey any time from their mid-30s, with the timing of parental hair colour change giving most of the clues on when.

    “We now know for sure that stress is responsible for this specific change to your skin and hair, and how it works,” says Prof Ya-Cieh Hsu, research author from Harvard University.

    In the study published in Nature it was concluded that pain in mice triggered the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Subsequently, this respunse made their hearts beat faster and blood pressure rise, affecting the nervous system and causing acute stress. Therefore, this process sped up the depletion of melanocytes and the change in hair color.

    Proffesor Hsu also stated the following: “I expected stress was bad for the body, but the detrimental impact of stress that we discovered was beyond what I imagined. After just a few days, all of the pigment-regenerating stem cells were lost. Once they’re gone, you can’t regenerate pigment any more – the damage is permanent.” Hsu concluded.

    “Our discovery, made in mice, is only the beginning of a long journey to finding an intervention for people. It also gives us an idea of how stress might affect many other parts of the body,” Hsu concluded.

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