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Going Gray: How It Happens and How to Stop It

Gray hair is the most iconic sign of advancing age. Some people view gray hair as a badge of honor and wisdom, presenting a distinguished look currently en vogue with celebrities such as George Clooney, Harrison Ford, and Judy Dench. However, for many people the graying process is a source of anxiety over the impact on appearance, relationships, and career. Regular hair coloring is currently the only way to treat gray hair, but future generations of seniors and Albuquerque senior care providers may have access to therapies that stop gray at its source.

The Causes of Gray Hair

Hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin. This melanin is produced in specialized cells called melanocytes that are located in the hair follicle. Melanocytes stop producing melanin as we age, which causes hair to lose its natural color and turn white, gray, or silver. Scientists believe this process is genetic, although environmental factors, nutritional habits, and certain health conditions also play a role.

About the Study

A recent large-scale study by scientists at University College-London has identified the primary gene thought to be responsible for the graying process. Researchers examined 6,000 subjects from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and discovered that a gene called IRF4 is the primary culprit that determines if and when a person goes gray. They also found several other genes that contribute to the appearance and texture of hair that could also contribute to this gene.

Future Preventative Therapies

The most notable implication of this study is that scientists believe they will be able to develop therapies that target IRF4. “Turning off” this gene could potentially slow the graying process, stop it, or prevent it altogether. While still many years away, this genetic discovery is a critical first step in permanently preventing gray hair. Such a therapy could be a great benefit to the emotional health and quality of life for individuals concerned about going gray.

When it comes to senior wellbeing, it’s not all about looking young, but rather feeling young. With help from Home Care Assistance of Albuquerque, seniors are better equipped to overcome the challenges of aging in the comfort of their own homes. In addition to helping senior age gracefully, we provide premier dementia, stroke, and Alzheimer’s care in Albuquerque to help local seniors manage their illnesses and injuries while maintaining as much independence as possible. Call 505-798-0800 today to schedule a no-obligation consultation and learn more about how we can help your loved one achieve the golden years he or she deserves.