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Dr. Miri Seiberg Presents: Age-induced Hair Graying: What Goes Wrong And Do We Know How To Fix It

CDR Fall 2013 Seminar Series

Graying hair is a telltale sign of aging that is frequently the focus of many anti-aging products – hair coloring, extensions, and “hip” haircuts, among others. Keeping hair looking young and healthy will always be a hot topic, for men and women no matter how old they are. We invited Dr. Miri Seiberg to the Center of Dermal Research to talk about the causes of hair turning gray and some of the remedies currently being studied.

Dr. Seiberg discussed the importance of the hair cycle to the graying process. Specifically, she stressed how hairs do not “turn” gray midway through growth. Hairs go through a three-phase cycle consisting of anagen, the active hair growth period typically that lasts from two to seven years; catagen, a short period that signals the cessation of hair growth; and telogen, the resting phase during which the hair falls out. Hair pigmentation only occurs during the anagen phase, in which melanocyte stem cells migrate to the bulb of the hair follicle and begin to differentiate. This means that hair can only turn gray at the start of the hair cycle.

Next, Dr. Seiberg discussed several potential treatments. One is a catalase enzymatic therapy that helps remove excess hydrogen peroxide build-up in vitiligo patients. Studies showed that inactive melanocytes became functional when the excess hydrogen peroxide was removed. Another is a tablet that contains a fruit extract that behaves similarly to TRP-2, a gene that regulates brown and black melanin production in melanosomes. TRP-2 is also an antioxidant that reduces the oxidative damage that accumulates in melanocytes as a natural consequence of aging. A third potential treatment could be botanicals that enhance pigmentation. The lotus flower contains essential oils that improve melanogenesis in melanocytes. Another well-known Chinese herbal tonic is He Shou Wu. This is an extract of the herbaceous vine Polygonum multiflorum that is said to turn gray hair black.

While a definitive “cure” for graying hair has yet to be discovered, this new knowledge of how hair becomes gray allows us to peer deeper at the issue in a more comprehensive light.

Dr. Seiberg is a life sciences R&D expert with a track record of research innovation.  She specializes in taking products from inception to launch, and has worked in the past with companies like Aveeno and Neutrogena.