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The mystery of why human hair turns grey as we age has finally been solved by a team of European scientists – and wisdom has nothing to do with it.
Science Daily reports that greying hair is caused by a massive build-up of hydrogen peroxide – the chemical women have long used to dye their hair blonde – due to wear and tear of hair follicles.
The build-up of peroxide eventually blocks our normal synthesis of melanin, the natural pigment responsible for our hair, skin, and eye colour.
"Not only blondes change their hair colour with hydrogen peroxide. All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. This research, however, is an important first step to get at the root of the problem, so to speak", said Gerald Weissmann MD, Editor-in-Chief of The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology journal, to Science Daily.
The researchers discovered that the hydrogen peroxide build-up was caused from the reduction of an enzyme (catalase) that breaks apart hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.
Hair follicles cannot repair the hydrogen peroxide damage, which is also complicated by an enzyme being disrupted that leads to melanin production in hair follicles.
"As any blue-haired lady will attest, sometimes hair dyes don't quite work as anticipated. This study is a prime example of how basic research in biology can benefit us in ways never imagined”, said Mr Weissmann.