Quantitative mapping of human hair greying and reversal in relation to life stress

Ayelet M. Rosenberg, Shannon Rausser, Junting Ren, Eugene V. Mosharov, Gabriel Sturm, R. Todd Ogden, Purvi Patel, Rajesh Kumar Soni, Clay Lacefield, Desmond J. Tobin, Ralf Paus, Martin Picard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Hair greying is a hallmark of aging generally believed to be irreversible and linked to psychological stress. Methods: Here, we develop an approach to profile hair pigmentation patterns (HPPs) along individual human hair shafts, producing quantifiable physical timescales of rapid greying transitions. Results: Using this method, we show white/grey hairs that naturally regain pigmentation across sex, ethnicities, ages, and body regions, thereby quantitatively defining the reversibility of greying in humans. Molecularly, grey hairs upregulate proteins related to energy metabolism, mitochondria, and antioxidant defenses. Combining HPP profiling and proteomics on single hairs, we also report hair greying and reversal that can occur in parallel with psychological stressors. To generalize these observations, we develop a computational simulation, which suggests a threshold-based mechanism for the temporary reversibility of greying. Conclusions: Overall, this new method to quantitatively map recent life history in HPPs provides an opportunity to longitudinally examine the influence of recent life exposures on human biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere67437
StatePublished - Jun 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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