Grey hair a thing of past, protein that keeps colour on discovered

London: Grey hair may someday be a thing of the past, say scientists who claim to have discovered a protein which keeps colour in strands.

In a series of experiments, a team at New York University`s Langone Medical Centre has identified the protein called "wnt" which is found to be vital in the production of colour in hairs.

The breakthrough raises the prospects of drugs, lotions or shampoos that raise levels of wnt and restore white or grey hair to its natural colour, the `Daily Mail` reported.

In fact, in their experiments, the scientists have shown that the protein kickstarts a chain of reactions which lead to stem or "mother" cells in scalp maturing and producing the pigment that gives hair its colour.

A similar chain of reactions takes place in the human scalp, but the team is yet to prove that faults in the system turn people`s hair grey.

Wnt is also vital for hair growth, suggesting that a treatment that keeps hair dark would have the added advantage of also stopping it from thinning, the scientists suggested in their report in the `Cell` journal.

Such a treatment would save women of a certain age the need to make endless expensive trips to the hair salon to have their greying roots covered up. It would also be popular with middle-aged men keen to recapture their youthful looks.

Previous research showed that wnt is also responsible for the production of new hair follicles. It had been thought that follicles, the tiny structures responsible for hair growth, were always formed before birth, with their gradual death leading to baldness.