Catalase is the Culprit for Gray Hair
A simple, but powerful enzyme, catalase, has been found to be the culprit for causing gray hair. Catalase enzyme production declines with age, preventing hair follicles from producing melanin. In essence, catalase deficiency allows hydrogen peroxide build-up, bleaching our hair to gray then white.
According to results of the study, published in the FASEB Journal, hair becomes bleached from the inside out. Over time, our hair turns gray. Catalase enzyme levels decline with age and cease to give us protection from graying. The findings solve a long sought after mystery about why our hair turns gray.
Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief FASEB says, “All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white.”
Catalase is found in all living organisms that utilize oxygen. The primary role of catalase is to convert hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen. Catalase can be found in highest concentrations in the liver. Catalase is also used commercially to remove hydrogen peroxide from milk to make cheese. Food wraps, made from catalase keep our groceries fresh by preventing oxidation.
A combination of events leads to gray hair. The researchers also found that hair follicles need the enzymes MSR A and B in order to repair damage caused by hydrogen peroxide. To complicate matters further, low levels of MSR A and B also disrupt the enzyme tyrosinase, needed for melanin production, leading to gray hair.
According to Weissmann, “This study is a prime example of how basic research in biology can benefit us in ways never imagined. As any blue-haired lady will attest, sometimes hair dyes don't quite work as anticipated."
We now know that gray hair starts with declining levels of catalase, in turn causing a series of events that eventually turns our hair white. It seems that solving the ancient mystery of why hair turns gray is somewhat of a surprise to the researchers.