We all know ancestors give us our hair color, but the roots of gray hair have been less clear. Is it genetics, or stress?
Marie Antoinette supposedly went completely white the night before they lopped off her head. And our presidents seem to go gray much faster than those of us with less weighty roles.
It turns out you can blame Mom and Dad, at least a bit. Scientists say they've identified the first gene for gray hair.
The variant, dubbed IRF4, is also associated with blonde or lighter-colored hair. That makes sense, because melanin is the pigment that paints hair with the chestnut, golden or raven hues of youth. With age, the melanocytes that produce the color in hair follicles can slow down. And you start going gray.
"You think about hair graying as the absence of melanin," says Kaustubh Adhikari, a statistical genetics postdoc at University College London and lead author of the study, which was published Tuesday in Nature Communications.