Dr Pirro Hysi and a group of researchers from Kings’s College London and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam have discovered 124 genes that play a major role in human hair colour. The study is the largest of its kind, using DNA data and self-reported hair colour information from nearly 300,000 people.
Previous studies have found that much of the variation in human hair colour is down to genetics, with around a dozen known genes, but this study largely completes the knowledge gap of which genes control hair colour. Around 100 of the genes the team discovered were not previously known to contribute to pigmentation. These new genes have also allowed the team to predict hair colour much more accurately than before.
The study is the largest genetic study on pigmentation ever undertaken and could advance our knowledge of diseases that are linked to pigmentation, such as skin cancer. The results could also be applied to forensic science.
Read the paper, published in Nature Genetics.