The research, which appears in the much cited journal for Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, suggests that ‘a cure for gray is coming’, a claim that will have the hair care category on its toes, as solutions for graying hair have become a huge growth category in recent years.
The scientists’ research has centered on the fact that people who start to go gray do so because they develop massive oxidative stress caused by an accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in their follicles.
This in turn causes the hair to bleach itself ‘from the inside out’, causing the hair follicle to lose its pigmentation and in turn gray, or white, depending on the levels of hydrogen peroxide in the follicles.
Hydrogen peroxide levels can be regulated
The researchers say their work has shown that the levels of hydrogen peroxide can be remedied with a proprietary treatment developed in the laboratories, using a topically applied formulation based on a compound known as PC-KUS, a modified pseudocatalase that is UVB-activated.
The researchers also say that the treatment could be used for the skin condition vitiligo, which leads to the de-pigmentation of the skin, often manifesting itself as patches of lighter colored skin on any part of the body.
If the treatment does make it to market as a hair care product, marketers will be faced with the problem of how to position it. In the US the FDA states that any product which has a physiological impact on the body invariably has to be marketed as a pharmaceutical product, which could present a conundrum for cosmetic manufacturers.
Repigmentation a reality?
"To date, it is beyond any doubt that the sudden loss of the inherited skin and localized hair color can affect those individuals in many fundamental ways," said Karin U. Schallreuter, M.D., study author from the Institute for Pigmentary Disorders in association with E.M. Arndt University of Greifswald, Germany and the Centre for Skin Sciences, School of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford, United Kingdom.
"The improvement of quality of life after total and even partial successful repigmentation has been documented," Schallreuter added.
The research is based on an international study of 2,411 patients with varying degrees of vitiligo. The study noted that a small proportion of the group had been diagnosed with Strictly Segmental Vitiligo (SSV), while slightly more patients were diagnosed with a combination of SSV and Mon-segmental vitiligo (NSV).
Link between oxidative stress and hydrogen peroxide levels proven
The study found that a number of SSV patients with a certain nerval distribution also had a condition that affected the pigment in the eyelashes and that these patients, and that these patients had the same levels of oxidative stress as NSV patients.
The scientists said that these findings helped form the link between oxidative stress levels and the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide, which ultimately led to the development of the treatment and successful patient outcomes for the repigmentation of skin and eyelashes.
"For generations, numerous remedies have been concocted to hide gray hair," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, "but now, for the first time, an actual treatment that gets to the root of the problem has been developed.