Gene Associated with Graying Hair Found

April 19, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. gene / dʒin /(n.) – the part of a cell containing information inherited from one’s parents that controls people’s physical characteristics
Example: The handsome actor credited his looks to his mother’s good genes.

2. ancestry / ˈæn sɛs tri / (n.) – the group of people from which a person was born
Example: Ms. Yamada grew up in the United States but she is of Japanese ancestry.

3. trait / treɪt / (n.) – (in science) a characteristic determined by one’s genes
Example: Her fair skin and dark hair are traits she inherited from her parents.

4. cosmetic / kɒzˈmɛt ɪk / (adj.) – related to improving the appearance of something
Example: The doctors removed her scar through cosmetic surgery.

5. reconstruct / ˌri kənˈstrʌkt / [ree-kuh n-STRUHKT(v.) – to rebuild or recreate something
Example: The criminal’s face was reconstructed from the witness’s testimony.


Read the text below.
Genetic researchers from the University College London found a gene related to graying hair for the first time.

The gene, called IRF4, has been previously associated with other functions such as the production of melanin, the substance that determines the color of a person’s eyes, skin, and hair. For instance, IRF4 is found to be related to having a lighter hair color among Europeans.

The researchers identified the gene by looking at the genetic make-up of 6,000 Latin American volunteers who came from different ancestries: 48% were of European ancestry, 46% were of Native American descent, and 6% were of African descent. The wide variety in the participants’ ancestry made it possible for the researchers to observe and compare a wide range of physical characteristics and genetic makeup and identify which genes cause certain traits.

Aside from finding the gene responsible for gray hair, the researchers were also able to find other genes associated with other characteristics related to people’s hair, such as hair color, beard thickness, and even balding.

According to the researchers, the discovery of these genes can be used for cosmetic purposes. Andrés Ruiz-Linares, the study’s co-author, said that the discovery of the hair-graying gene may one day be used to find a way to delay or even prevent hair from turning gray. 

Aside from cosmetics, the findings may also be used in forensics, or the use of science to solve crimes. By knowing the physical characteristics related to certain genes, it may be possible to one day reconstruct how criminals look like from only the DNA they leave in a crime scene.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Would you want to prevent your hair from turning gray? Why or why not?
·         If you could change one of your physical characteristics, what would you change?

Discussion B

·         If you were given the chance to modify your genes, would you do it? Why or why not?
·         What do you think are the possible dangers of manipulating people’s genes?

April 19, 2016