Call for papers - Reproduction, Technology and Society, a new section in Reproductive BioMedicine Online
Page URL:

'Bad hair days' down to genes?

27 May 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 260

Unusual hair patterns are influenced by the aptly-named frizzled 6 gene, US researchers report. They found that mice lacking the gene have strange hair patterns, growing in swirls and tufts instead of all pointing in the same direction. The human version of the gene is probably responsible for cowlicks and whorls in people, say the team, who published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers, based at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, bred 'knock-out' mice, which completely lacked the frizzled 6 gene. The animals were all healthy, but had unusual whirling patterns in the hair on their head, chest and hind feet. The hair follicles themselves appeared normal, suggesting that the direction of hair growth is controlled by skin cells around the base of the hair, rather than the hair roots themselves.

Lead researcher Jeremy Nathans thinks that frizzled 6, along with ten related genes, is crucial for controlling patterns in the developing embryo - other frizzled genes affect the development of blood vessels in the eye, and the growth of nerves in the spinal cord. The frizzled genes were first identified by fruit fly researchers, who suggested the existence of a 'coordinate system' in the body, which tells tissue where it is, and in which direction it should point. 'Genes either build this coordinate system or read it out', said Nathans.

Nathans isn't keen on the term 'bad hair': 'These are the things that make life interesting', he said, adding 'we're all different'. He also pointed out a study published last year, which found a link between hair patterns and whether people are left or right-handed. This suggests that the same genetic factors could play a role in both features.

Bad Hair? As Mice Attest, It's Probably Not Your Shampoo
The New York Times |  25 May 2004
Frazzled over Frizzled 6 gene
NewsDay |  25 May 2004
Gene is to blame for unruly hair
BBC News Online |  25 April 2004
Nothing to do with me, I'm just a victim of my genes
The Scotsman |  26 April 2004
13 June 2011 - by Mehmet Fidanboylu 
Scientists from China and the USA have identified a genetic region linked to 'werewolf syndrome', a condition that causes excessive hair growth. The condition also known as hyper-trichosis is very rare - fewer than 100 cases have ever been recorded worldwide...
Log in to add a Comment.

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

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.