Study Sheds Light On How Stress Causes Gray Hair

by Paromita Datta published on -

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We have heard of stories like Marie Antoniette where stress caused an almost instant graying of hair. But the science behind this phenomenon was still unclear. A recent study by Harvard University may have finally shed some light on this occurrence. According to an animal study, published in the journal Nature, stress activates certain nerves that cause permanent damage to the pigment-carrying cells in hair follicles.

Since stress affects the whole body, the scientists had to narrow down the system responsible for this occurrence. The initial hypothesis was that stress affects the immune system, spiking cortisol levels which attack the pigment cells. To test this, the team removed the adrenal glad which produced the cortisol hormone. However, this made no difference. The team eliminated different probabilities in the same manner until they narrowed down to the sympathetic nervous system.

Close up of shiny, lustrous hair

What triggers sudden graying of hair? Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Further experiments revealed that the sympathetic nerves release the chemical norepinephrine, which affects the pigment-regenerating stem cells in the hair follicles. The stem cells go into overdrive, depleting the reservoir of pigment. With continued stress, the pigment-regenerating cells were lost permanently.

 

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About the Author

Paromita Datta covers the latest health and wellness trends for Organic Facts. An ex-journalist who specialized in health and entertainment news, Paromita was responsible for managing a health supplement for The New Indian Express, a leading national daily in India. She has completed her post-graduation in Business Administration from the University of Rajasthan and her diploma in journalism from YMCA, Delhi. She has completed an e-course, Introduction to Food and Health, from Stanford University, US.

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