Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

Genetic test for ginger hair?

04 February 2013

By Michelle Downes

Appeared in BioNews 691

A DNA test has been developed to see if couples carry the 'ginger gene'.

Genealogy experts will demonstrate the test at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live heritage exhibition at London's Olympia later this month. The test will analyse the gene MC1R, which affects the production of red pigment, allowing couples to determine if they could conceive a child with red hair.

Dr James Wilson, a geneticist from BritainsDNA told the Daily Mail, 'Through a simple saliva test to determine deep ancestry, we can also identify whether an individual is a carrier of any of the three common redhead variants in the gene MC1R'.

Four in ten British people carry these gene variants despite not having red hair themselves. The variants show recessive inheritance, explained Dr Wilson to the Telegraph: 'This means that families can carry a variant for generations, and when one carrier has children with another carrier, a redheaded baby can appear seemingly out of nowhere'. There is a 25 percent chance of two carriers conceiving a child with red hair.

The variants inactivate the gene MC1R, which disrupts a pathway important for the production of the pigments black melanin and red/yellow melanin. This prevents the production of black melanin while allowing the production of red/yellow melanin, resulting in red hair, light skin and often freckles.

BritainsDNA aims to establish exactly how many British people carry three of the most common redhead variants of the MC1R gene and then publish a map indicating where these variants are most common across Britain. About ten percent of Irish people have red hair, but BritainsDNA reports that up to 46 percent are carriers of the redhead variants. In England, it is estimated that six percent of the population have red hair but there are no current figures available for the number of potential carriers.

The test may also indicate whether a couple's offspring have an increased risk for certain health issues. Recent research shows that the MC1R gene is associated with a higher incidence of skin cancer, which may be independent of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Dr David Fisher, lead author of the study investigating the MC1R gene in mice told Nature: 'There is something about the redhead genetic background that is behaving in a carcinogenic fashion, independent of UV'.

Alistair Moffat, one of the founders of BritainsDNA, emphasised the historical legacy he thinks the project could unearth, as reported by the Telegraph: 'Those who actually have red hair only need to look in the mirror but very many more carry a redhead gene variant but don't know they have it and could pass it on to their children. We aim to discover this hidden story of the Red-Headed Nation'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Telegraph | 27 January 2013
 
Mail Online | 28 January 2013
 
News & Star | 31 January 2013
 
BritainsDNA | 2013
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

18 July 2016 - by Ayala Ochert 
Having a single copy of the 'ginger gene' may increase the risk of skin cancer, even among people who don't have red hair, according to a study...
03 May 2016 - by Isobel Steer 
Scientists say they have identified a gene that could explain why some people appear to look younger than they are...
11 April 2016 - by Rikita Patel 
The gene responsible for red hair raises the risk of melanoma whether or not people spend a long time in the sun, a study says...
07 March 2016 - by Helen Robertson 
Research has identified a genetic variant involved in causing grey hair during the ageing process...
09 June 2014 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Research on mouse fur colour has shown that a single-letter DNA change – the smallest possible change in DNA – can account for the variation in hair colour that produces blonde hair in humans...

23 April 2012 - by Dr Greg Ball 
Functioning hair follicles have been grown in hairless mice by researchers in Japan, offering hope of a future treatment for baldness and alopecia in humans. The study is the first to report creating viable hair follicles using human cells, according to Nature News....
26 September 2011 - by Luciana Strait 
The world's largest sperm bank, Cryos International, is turning away red-haired men as donors due to a lack of demand for their sperm. Its director, Mr Ole Schou, said the bank has reached its capacity of 70 litres of semen due to a surge in donations in recent years...
08 August 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The London Sperm Bank (LSB) is to launch an online 'dating agency-style' catalogue listing the appearance, physique and personalities of its sperm donors...
20 June 2011 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A protein active in immature pigment-producing skin cells could be responsible for hair colouring, according to US scientists. The findings about melanocyte stem cells (MSCs) may explain why hair turns grey and could provide insight into melanocyte-related diseases, such as melanoma...
02 April 2001 - by BioNews 
People with blonde hair are being called for a study designed to show whether blondes really do have more fun and why. A team of scientists at Edinburgh University hope to discover why people have different colour hair and how it might affect them. They want blondes of all ages...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation