Stress may turn your hair colour grey, Harvard scientists explains
New Delhi : You must have heard that people who have more stress in their mind are likely to have grey hair and sometimes white hairs. Marie Antoinette who was captured during the French Revolution, her hair reportedly turned white overnight. In more recent history, John McCain experienced severe injuries as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War - and lost color in his hair.
Now, the Harvard scientist have explained the biological connection to the phenomenon. According to them, stress activates nerves that are part of the fight-or-flight response, which in turn cause permanent damage to pigment-regenerating stem cells in hair follicles.
The findings from the study have been published in Nature on January 22, 2020. It also talks about the impact of stress on the human body. The stress damages stem cells that manage skin and hair color, speeding up the rate at which gray and white hairs appear.
Everyone has an anecdote to share about how stress affects their body, particularly in their skin and hair — the only tissues we can see from the outside,” said senior author Ya-Chieh Hsu, the Alvin and Esta Star Associate Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard and HSCI principal faculty member. “We wanted to understand if this connection is true, and if so, how stress leads to changes in diverse tissues. Hair pigmentation is such an accessible and tractable system to start with — and besides, we were genuinely curious to see if stress indeed leads to hair graying."
In the experiments, the scientists observed the relationship between pain and stress, with physical pain increasing the abundance of the stress hormone cortisol and ultimately affecting the cells that are responsible for hair color. The dramatic results showed that it took just days of acute stress to severely damage the cells that provide hairs with pigment, turning a black mouse white in less than a week.
On the positive side, the scientists claimed that a specific protein called cyclin-dependent kinase is responsible for the cause and with proper control on it, hair fall and losing of colour can be cured.
Of course, just because these experiments revealed a lot about the process of how gray hair forms in mice, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same is true in humans. There’s still a lot of work left to be done in this field, and it’ll be interesting to see how it progresses in the near future.