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Over 100 genes that determine hair colour identified

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Scientists have identified 124 genes that play a major role in determining the colour of our hair, a finding that could help predict the colour of a criminal from evidence at the crime scene.

The discovery sheds new light on our understanding of the genetic complexity underpinning variations in human pigmentation, and could advance our knowledge of conditions linked to pigmentation, such as skin, testicular, prostate and

The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, are also relevant for forensic sciences.

Although previous studies have found that a large percentage of colour variation is explained by heritable factors, they only identified a dozen or so colour genes. The new study largely explains the genetic knowledge gap.

Researchers from London in the UK and Rotterdam in the analysed data from almost 300,000 people of European descent, together with their self-reported hair colour information.

By comparing the hair colour of the group with their genetic information, stored at several million locations across the human genome, the team identified 124 genes involved in the development of hair colour, of which more than 100 were not previously known to influence pigmentation.

The scientists also demonstrated that predicting hair colour with this new genetic information is more accurate than with previously known genes.

"This work will impact several fields of and medicine. As the largest ever genetic study on pigmentation, it will improve our understanding of like melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer," said from London.

The genes that affect hair colour also affect other types, while other pigment genes affect the chances of having and other forms of

"Our work helps us to understand what causes human diversity in appearance by showing how genes involved in pigmentation subtly adapted to external environments and even social interactions during our evolution," said Spector.

"We found that women have significantly fairer hair than men, which reflects how important cultural practices and sexual preferences are in shaping our genes and biology," he said.

"Besides substantially increasing our understanding of human pigmentation in general, finding these new hair colour genes is also important for further increasing the accuracy of hair colour prediction from traces in future forensic applications, which can help to find unknown perpetrators of crime," said from Erasmus MC.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, April 17 2018. 10:45 IST