The American Journal of Human Genetics recently published a report about the discovery of a 'curly hair gene' which may pave the way for curly haired people to banish their curls with the help of a pill.
Instead of the ongoing hair trauma of hot blow drying, hot ironing or chemical straightening, curly haired people may be able to just pop a pill for their curls to go straight.
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The new discovery will also make it possible to predict whether unborn babies will have straight or curly hair. Some scientists believe the discovery of this curly hair gene will eventually become part of genetic predetermination and offer prospective parents the option to preselect the hair texture of their future children.
Trichohyalin Gene Creates Curls
The groundbreaking research identified the trichohyalin gene as the one that is mainly responsible for creating curls.
Although the trichohyalin gene was already known to play a role in the development of the hair follicle, scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have now found its role in curliness.
Professor Nick Martin, head of the QIMR Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory and a curly haired man, is author of the ground breaking curly hair research. He says it's variation in this specific gene which determines straightness or curliness of hair.
Professor Martin and his colleague, Dr. Sarah Medland, sought to find genetic variations responsible for curly hair in those of European descent. Other studies show the chances of inheriting curly hair in those of European descent is around 90 per cent.
For Professor Martin's study, data was collected from a study of 5,000 twins in Australia over a 30 year period.
Professor Martin, inherited his own curly hair from his mother's side of the family. He said: "We studied large amounts of information on a diverse range of traits."
Comparing maps of the twins' genomes showed the same sorts of variations in the trichohyalin gene among those with curly hair and again among those with straight hair.
Professor Martin note that "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 hair roots."
It is thought that a variation in this gene may create an amino acid change which in turn influences the straightness or curliness of the hair.
Professor Martin believes that ultimately it may be possible to come up with treatments to make hair straighter as an alternative to heated hair-straighteners. He said: "Potentially we can now develop new treatments to make hair curlier or straighter, rather than treating the hair directly."
Professor Martin plans to take his new discovery to a major cosmetics company in Paris in January of 2010 to explore the possibilities of developing the anti-curl pill for use by hair consumers around the world.
Professor Martin believes "we could certainly predict whether it was more probable that a baby would have curly or straight hair. We plan to keep working on this to improve the prediction."
Of course there is wide reaching impact of being able to predict and control curls. One major application is forensics and the eventual possibility of being able to examine DNA samples from crime scenes to determine if suspects had curly, straight or some other texture of hair.
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