Last updated May 29, 2018 at 9:56 am
Wish your hair was ginger? Blame your genes.
An international research team has identified the genes associated with different hair colours, highlighting the genetic roots of human hair pigmentation.
The breakthrough could help inform population genetics and forensic science studies by allowing for predictions of hair colour, to a certain degree of accuracy, from DNA evidence alone.
Natural pigmentation in humans – such skin as hair colouration – is brought about by two types of melanin. Studies on twins show that, for hair, melanin production and distribution have an overwhelmingly heritable nature, with inherited factors accounting for almost 97 per cent of colour variation.
In the latest study, an international collaboration of researchers analysed genetic data from almost 300,000 Europeans with black, blonde, dark brown, light brown or red hair. They identified more than 100 new candidate genes that may help determine hair colour, including some that act on pigmentation and creation of the natural pigment melanin.
The researchers also attempted to predict a person’s hair colour on the basis of these associated genes. They found that they could anticipate black and red hair with high accuracy, but predicting blonde and brown hair was more challenging.
They also report a higher prevalence of lighter hair colours among women, suggesting an association between sex and hair colour.
The paper published in Nature Genetics.