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Stress turns your hair gray — this is the way

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A new study by researchers at Columbia University Bageros Medical College is the first to provide quantitative evidence linking psychological stress to people’s gray hair.

It may seem intuitive that stress accelerates graying, but researchers were surprised to find that hair color recovered when stress was removed. This is in contrast to recent studies in mice that suggested that stress-induced gray hair was permanent.

Study published on June 22 eLifeHas broader meaning than confirming old speculations about the effects of stress on hair color, is an associate professor of behavioral medicine (psychiatry and neurology) at Columbia University Bageros Medical College. Dr. Martin Picard said.

Understanding the mechanisms that allow “old” gray hair to return to a “young” pigmented state is new to general human aging adaptability and how it is affected by stress. You can create clues, “says Picard.

Read also: Are you washing your hair too much?

“Our data add to the growing evidence that human aging is not a linear, fixed biological process, but can be at least partially stopped or temporarily reversed. Will be. “

Study hair as a means of investigating aging

“Our hair contains information about our biological history, just as the ring of tree trunks holds information about the last few decades of a tree’s life,” says Picard. I will. “When the hair follicles are still under the skin, they are affected by stress hormones and other things that are happening in our mind and body. As the hair grows from the scalp, they harden and these Permanently crystallizes the exposure into a stable form. “”

People have long believed that psychological stress can accelerate gray hair, but there are sensitive ways in which the time of stress can be accurately correlated with hair pigmentation at the single hair follicle level. Scientists discussed the relationship because there wasn’t.

Ayelet Rosenberg, the first author of this study to split hair to record hair pigmentation and a student in Picard’s lab, captured very detailed images of small slices of human hair. , Developed a new method to quantify the degree of each pigmentation (graying) slices. Each slice about 1/20 mm wide represents about 1 hour of hair growth.

“When you look at your hair with your eyes, it looks the same color throughout, unless there is a big change,” says Picard. “Under the high resolution scanner, we see small subtle changes in color, which is what we are measuring.”

The researchers analyzed individual hairs from 14 volunteers. The results were compared to each volunteer’s stress diary. There, individuals were asked to review their calendar and assess their weekly stress levels.

Also read: Pandemic Hair Removal is Real and You Are Not Alone

Investigators soon noticed that some gray hair naturally returned to its original color. This has never been quantitatively documented, says Picard.

Aligning the hair with the stress diary by Shannon Rausser, the second author of the paper and a student in Picard’s lab, reveals a striking link between stress and hair graying, and in some cases, stress-relieving graying. The reversal of stress has become clear.

“There was one person who went on vacation, and the five hairs on that person’s head darkened during the vacation and were time-synchronized,” says Picard.

Condemn the connection between the mind and mitochondria

To better understand how stress causes gray hair, researchers also measure the levels of thousands of proteins in hair and how protein levels vary over each hair length. did.

The 300 protein changes occurred when the hair color changed. Researchers have developed a mathematical model that suggests that stress-induced changes in mitochondria can explain how stress turns hair gray.

“We often hear that mitochondria are the driving force of cells, but that’s not the only role mitochondria play,” says Picard. “Mitochondria are actually like small intracellular antennas that respond to many different signals, including psychological stress.”

The mitochondrial relationship between stress and hair color is not what was discovered in a recent study of mice that found that stress-induced graying was caused by the irreversible loss of hair follicle stem cells. Varies.

“Our data show that graying is reversible in humans, which means a different mechanism,” said co-author Ralph, a dermatologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.・ Dr. Paus said. “The biology of mouse hair follicles is very different. This can be the case if the findings in the mouse are not well communicated to people.”

Hair repigmentation that is only possible for some people

Reducing the stress of your life is a good goal, but it doesn’t necessarily turn your hair into a normal color.

“Based on our mathematical modeling, we believe that the threshold needs to be reached before the hair turns gray,” says Picard. “In middle age, when hair approaches that threshold due to biological age or other factors, stress pushes it above the threshold and turns gray.

“But if you reduce the stress of a 70-year-old who has been gray for years, darken your hair, or increase the stress of a 10-year-old, your hair will exceed the gray threshold. I don’t think it’s enough. “

Materials provided by Columbia University Irving Medical Center

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