There is an infamous photo of former US president Barack Obama showing his appearance before and after he took office.
From the photo, it is clear that almost all of Obama’s hair had greyed and he looked a lot older than his actual age. It was assumed that his line of work had a lot to do with his greying hair, something scientist have now confirmed.
Although the natural ageing process and genes play a huge role in the greying of hair, scientists have confirmed that stress is, indeed, a factor as well. A new study published in the journal Nature, associated stress with accelerated hair greying.
Researchers found that the norepinephrine from sympathetic nerves caused the stem cells to activate excessively, sending them into overload and depleting the colour reservoir.
According to the Harvard team’s research paper, the specific type of stress associated with the brain’s fight-or-flight response is the culprit behind greying.
It revealed that when an individual had stress it caused a sympathetic nerve response that activated the stem cells responsible for colouring hair. “Our study demonstrates that neuronal activity that is induced by acute stress can drive a rapid and permanent loss of somatic stem cells, and illustrates an example in which the maintenance of somatic stem cells is directly influenced by the overall physiological state of the organism,” the team said.
The team made their discovery through a series of experiments that measured the effect of stress on the hair colour of mice. They exposed the animals to three different stressors such as pain, restraint and a model of psychological stress. The animals were stressed over several days by being restrained for four hours a day, Monday to Friday, or through combinations of damp bedding, rapid changes to lighting and tilting their cages.
The study gives hope now that scientists know the protein involved in causing damage to stem cells from stress and they can find out how to possibly delay the greying of hair. For example, the found out that when this protein — cyclin-dependent kinase — was suppressed, the treatment also prevented a change in the colour of mice fur.