Gray hair could one day be prevented with new gene discovery

Researchers have discovered the first gene responsible for gray hair in humans, opening the door to strategies that may be able to prevent or reverse hair graying.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study reveals how a variant in the gene interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) plays a role in the graying of human hair.

Hair graying is a process typically associated with aging. It is believed to occur when melanin – the pigment that gives hair, skin and eyes their color – is no longer produced.

For their study, co-lead author Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, of the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at University College London (UCL), UK, and colleagues set out to determine whether IRF4 – already known to play a role in hair, eye and skin color – is associated with hair graying.

The researchers also wanted to find out whether certain genes are responsible for the density and shape of human hair, such as whether it is straight or curly.

Researchers have uncovered the first gene associated with hair graying. Continue reading “Gray hair could one day be prevented with new gene discovery”

Prostate cancer: low vitamin D may predict aggressive disease

An investigation of men undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous prostate shows there is a link between low levels of vitamin D and aggressiveness of disease.

The study – led by Northwestern University of Evanston, IL – is published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The finding offers useful information for cases where patients have agreed with their doctor that the treatment should be “watchful waiting” for the time being rather than removal of the prostate or some other medical procedure.

Lead investigator Adam Murphy, an assistant professor of urology, says:

“Men with dark skin, low vitamin D intake or low sun exposure should be tested for vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with an elevated PSA or prostate cancer. Then a deficiency should be corrected with supplements.”

Researchers have found a link between low vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer before, but those studies were based on blood that was sampled well before treatment.

The new study correlates vitamin D in blood sampled a couple of months before surgery to remove the prostate – radical prostatectomy – with an assessment of disease aggressiveness at time of surgery.

The link may explain some disparities seen in prostate cancer in different groups of men – for example in black men, says the team.

In previous investigations, Prof. Murphy and colleagues have found that black men who do not have much exposure to sunlight are up to 1.5 times more likely to be deficient in vitamin D than white men.


The study found that the men who had aggressive prostate cancer had lower levels of vitamin D – significantly lower than what is considered normal.

Continue reading “Prostate cancer: low vitamin D may predict aggressive disease”