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BOB HIRSHON (host):
Hair that bleaches itself…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Getting old usually means also getting gray hair. Now, a new study by researchers in the U.K. explains what turns our hair white. Karin Schallreuter is a dermatology professor at the University of Bradford’s Centre for Skin Sciences. She and her colleagues studied the hair of patients with a skin pigmentation condition called vitiligo.
SCHALLREUTER (University of Bradford):
We were able to show the amount of hydrogen peroxide in the hair shaft is very high.
Hydrogen peroxide is the same chemical often used to bleach hair. But in this case, the bleaching happens from the inside out. Schallreuter and her colleagues found that hydrogen peroxide builds up in the hair follicles and blocks the normal synthesis of hair pigment. Also, the mechanisms that would repair this damage get de-activated by hydrogen peroxide. So without that pigment, a dark head of hair will gradually turn white. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.