Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 3rd 2016 Contents B24
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, March 3, 2016
Scientists have pinpointed a gene responsible for
grey hair---a discovery that could lead to new ways
of delaying or preventing this natural sign of ageing,
they say in Nature Communications.
Hair dyes can cover up greying but gene manip-
ulation may, in future, banish it altogether.
The international team collected DNA samples
from "a diverse melting pot" of more than 6,000
volunteers of European, Native American and African
The gene IRF4 regulates a natural hair, skin and
eye pigment called melanin. It sits on chromosome
six and while it is unlikely to be the only gene con-
trolling greying, it provides a new target for researchers.
Lead author Dr Kaustubh Adhikari, from University
College London, said: "We already know several genes
involved in balding and hair colour but this is the
first time a gene for greying has been
identified in humans, as well as other
genes influencing hair shape and density.
It was only possible because we analysed
a diverse melting pot of people, which
hasn t been done before on this scale."
Hair gets its colour from pigments
produced by cells called melanocytes
that sit in the hair follicle---the root of
the hair. As we age, the melanocytes
stop producing the pigments and the
hair loses its natural colour and goes
Experts believe there are many genetic
as well as some environmental factors
involved in this ageing pathway---IRF4
is now an example that we now know
As well as the greying gene, the
researchers also found a gene linked to
monobrows and others linked to beard
and eyebrow thickness.
Dr Adhikari said: "The genes we have
identified are unlikely to work in isolation
to cause greying or straight hair, or thick
eyebrows, but have a role to play along
with many other factors yet to be iden-
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
Scientists discover grey hair gene
Scientists have discovered a grey hair gene.
For years scientists have been looking for ways
to enhance our intelligence---from eating fish oil
tablets to playing the latest video games. The jury
is out on whether these techniques are truly effec-
tive, but studies have shown that your IQ can
change---so why not give it a try?
"At least in the short term you can get significantly
higher scores on all sorts of cognitive tests," says Dan
Hurley, an award-winning science journalist and
author of Smarter: The New Science of Building
1. Learn to play an instrument
Those who regularly took on new hobbies---such
as learning digital photography or making crafts, or
learning to play a musical instrument---scored better
in memory tests after three months compared to
those who did non-intellectual or low cognitive
2. Eat brain food
Recent research published in the journal Neurology
found that improving overall diet quality is an impor-
tant factor for lowering the risk of memory loss and
thinking ability. A Mediterranean-style diet containing
olive oil and nuts---rich in antioxidants---might just
do the trick.
3. Relish your sleep
The US National Sleep Foundation advises that
seven to nine hours a night are optimal for most of
us to function as we should. Sleep helps our nervous
system to function properly, with some experts believ-
ing nerves use the period we sleep to shut down and
repair themselves---helping our brains work better.
4. Get physical
A good workout not only builds your muscles, it
also builds your mind. The Alzheimer s Association
recommends regular exercise as this is associated
with a lower risk of cognitive decline.
And researchers from Stanford have found that
even just taking a walk will increase your creativity.
A good workout can keep you mentally sharp as it
reduces potential dementia risk factors such as high
blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
5. Avoid stress
Any situation that is highly stressful can seriously
impact your mind, according to Hurley. The key to
being smart, is focus.
"The hallmark of intelligence is being able to focus
on a task at hand, block out the rest of the world
and zoom in on this thing," Hurley says.
Tips that could
make you smarter
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