Is Your Bad Hair Day All in Your Genes? New Study Reveals Insights



A recent study has uncovered a genetic link to the often frustrating phenomenon of a “bad hair day.” But first, let’s learn more about it!

What is a bad hair day?

A “bad hair day” is a colloquial term used to describe a day when a person’s hair does not look as desired or is difficult to style. It typically refers to hair that appears messy, unruly, or out of place, despite the individual’s efforts to groom or style it.

Common issues associated with bad hair days include frizz, flatness, tangles, or hair that just won’t cooperate.

Why You Can Blame Your Genes for That Messy Hair Day

Conducted by researchers and published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the study delves into the intricate world of hair whorls – those circular patterns of hair that adorn our scalps, determined by the positioning of hair follicles.

In their quest to unravel the genetic underpinnings of hair whorls, the research team examined over 4,000 Chinese individuals. These distinctive hair patterns, categorized by their whorl number (single or double) and direction (clockwise or counterclockwise), have long piqued scientific curiosity.

Traditionally, it was believed that a single gene was responsible for these patterns. However, the study introduced a groundbreaking notion – that multiple genes may collectively influence the direction of these hair whorls.

Lead author Dr. Sijia Wang, from the Shanghai Institute of Nutrition and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences, shed light on their findings, stating, “We know very little about why we look like we do… Hair whorl is one of the traits that we were curious about.”

The study marks a significant milestone as the first genome-wide association study on human hair whorls. It involved analyzing the scalps of 2,149 participants in the National Survey of Physical Traits cohort and was later validated with an additional 1,950 individuals in the Taizhou Longitudinal Study cohort.

The researchers pinpointed four genetic variants that they believe are responsible for shaping these intriguing hair patterns.

While prior speculation linked atypical whorl patterns to abnormal neurological development, the study did not find significant genetic associations between hair whorl direction and behavioral, cognitive, or neurological traits.

This discovery is part of a broader exploration of human genetics. Recent achievements include decoding the entire human genome and creating a “pangenome” from DNA samples of 47 individuals worldwide, shedding light on the 0.1% genetic diversity that distinguishes humans.

The goal is to expand this “pangenome” to include 350 individuals next year, aiming to better understand how genetic variants impact health and disease.

Dr. Eric Green, Director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, underscored the importance of these genetic efforts.

He emphasized that a comprehensive human pangenome reference, reflecting growing population diversity, will enhance scientists’ and healthcare professionals’ ability to grasp how genomic variations impact health and disease. This, in turn, can pave the way for a future where genomic medicine benefits all.

In the quest to decipher the mysteries of our genes and appearance, this study on hair whorls takes us one step closer to understanding the intricate dance between our DNA and our outward traits, reminding us that even our “bad hair days” have their roots in our genetic code.

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