Health Editor’s Note: I do not have a problem with the scientific/medical process that stress can cause the body to stop producing melanin which is what gives color to our hair, eyes, and skin. I can easily see how that may or does happen. I do have an issue with someone’s hair turning white, even the part that is already grown out and has color, that is an impossibility unless someone has a dye job. Hair can begin to grow in white or a shade of gray, but what was there before the change to the melanocytes would stay the same, thus roots showing when hair has grown out after a color touch-up. I debunk the Marie Antoinette story…I bet she had a wig…Carol
When Stressed Out, Mice’s Fur Turns Gray Quickly
By Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.org
On the night before her execution, Marie Antoinette’s hair is said to have turned completely white. John McCain, after enduring terrible conditions as a prisoner of war at age 36 in Vietnam, emerged with white hair, too. Age-old wisdom posits that stress can fuel such a dramatic loss of hair color. Now, a study published in Nature suggests that the adage might be true—at least when it comes to mice.
In each follicle of human hair are melanocyte stem cells (MeSCs), which differentiate into specialized cells called melanocytes. These cells, in turn, dictate hair color by injecting pigment into the hair’s keratin. Over time, a person’s stores of MeSCs are slowly depleted. For Nature, Shayla A. Clark and Christopher D. Deppmann explain that with age, pigment disappears from hair follicles, and a person’s hair gradually goes from “salt-and-pepper colored” to gray and then to white.
But scientists at Harvard University were interested in the processes that might fuel a more rapid loss of pigmentation. “Everyone has an anecdote to share about how stress affects their body, particularly in their skin and hair—the only tissues we can see from the outside,” says senior author Ya-Chieh Hsu, a Harvard stem cell expert and regenerative biologist. “We wanted to understand if this connection is true, and if so, how stress leads to changes in diverse tissues.”