Cure For Gray Hair Has Arrived, Researchers Reverse Graying Follicles

By Nina Sen , May 04, 2013 10:01 AM EDT

Men and women have always shuddered at the thought of that first gray hair. Now, researchers in the United Kingdom say they've found a way to reverse the graying. Hair dyes and coloring hair may be a thing of the past.

"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, in a press release.

The same treatment can be used to treat vitiligo, a skin condition. Vitiligo is known for causing patchy depigmentation in the skin and can also make eyelashes turn white.

The researchers explain that hair becomes gray because of a build-up of hydrogen peroxide inside the follicle of hair. That build-up causes the hair to bleach itself from the inside out, a result of extreme oxidative stress to the follicle. Oxidative stress is often defined as an imbalance of pro-oxidants and antioxidants and often increases with age.

In the study, scientists analyzed an international group of 2,411 patients with vitiligo. After analyzing hair and skin samples, scientists discovered a special enzyme, called catalase, that breaks down hydrogen peroxide and relieves oxidative stress. 

The researchers say the graying process can be reversed by the application of a treatment they called PC-KUS, a modified pseudocatalase. The treatment is topical and activates with sunlight. In the study, many of the test participants' eyelashes and skin returned to their original color.

"To date, it is beyond any doubt that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localized hair color can affect those individuals in many fundamental ways. The improvement of quality of life after total and even partial successful repigmentation has been documented," said Karin Schallreuter, who led the study and is a dermatologist at the University of Bradford, UK, in the press release.

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