Scientists have developed treatments that retain the hair of those genetically predisposed to hair loss, and with the recent discovery of a curly hair gene they could now also invent a pill to perform the same function as straighteners or curlers.
“Potentially we can now develop new treatments to make hair curlier or straighter, rather that treating the hair directly,” said Professor Nick Martin, head of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory and author of the research.
“That is one angle we will be working on and which I will be discussing with a major cosmetic company in Paris in January.”
Prof. Martin and his colleague Dr Sarah Medland identified a trichohyalin gene as the one that is mainly responsible for creating curls and although it was already known to play some role in the development of the hair follicle, scientists have now found its role in curliness.
“This gene has been known for well over twenty years as being involved in hair production and it’s a gene that sits in the sheath that’s around the hair roots,” he said.
The researchers sought to find genetic variations responsible for curly hair in those of European descent and analysed data collected from a study, which appears in the latest edition of the American Journals of Human Genetics, of 5000 twins in Australia over a 30 year period.
They discovered the same variations in the trichohyalin gene among the twins with curly hair and again among those with straight hair, and it is thought that this variation may create an amino acid change which in turn influences the straightness or curliness of the hair.
“The most immediate application is likely to be in forensics,” Prof. Martin said. “[With a DNA sample] we can already predict their hair and eye colour so this would be another trait to refine the picture.”
About 45 per cent of European people have straight hair, 40 per cent have wavy hair and 15 per cent have curly hair but Prof. Martin says that the discovery of the variation in the trichohyalin gene could spell the end of the need for some hair styling products.
“We could also predict whether it was more probable that a baby would have curly or straight hair,” he said.
Previous studies show that the chances of inheriting curly hair is around 90 per cent but in light of the recent discovery, experts may now be able to more accurately predict whether a baby would have straight or curly hair.
UPDATE [November 2018]: Please note that there have been no further updates released concerning this research so it is likely that it has been abandoned. There have been other developments as scientists discover more about the genes responsible for hair type, for example, which may contribute to work in this area in the future, but for now we are unaware of anyone developing a pill to make curly hair straight, or straight hair curly.
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