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'Blonde Gene': Scientists Stumble Upon Mutation That Dictates Hair Color

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By    |   Monday, 02 Jun 2014 01:03 PM

Scientists have discovered the gene responsible for blonde hair.

According to LiveScience.com, the KIT ligand (KITLG) gene is present in roughly one third of northern Europeans, resulting in the platinum blonde and dirty blonde hues most commonly associated with that region of the world.

One small change in the KITLG gene sequence, the presence of a "G" instead of an "A," determines blonde status over brunette.

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"There's a half dozen different chromosome regions that influence hair color," said David Kingsley, the study's co-author and an evolutionary biologist at Stanford University in California. "This is one, but not the only one. The combination of variants that you have at all those different genes — that sets your final hair color."

Along the way to the discovery of the gene switch, the researchers were able to turn the coats of mice fluorescent blue. The scientists removed the mice's genes closely associated with hair color in humans, and replaced them with a gene that coded for the florescent blue tone. Once inserted, the color expressed itself in the hair follicles.

After this, they spliced the human blonde hair gene into the mice, and their coats turned a lighter shade.

"The study is rigorous, elegant, and airtight," said Harvard University geneticist Hopi Hoekstra, who was not involved in the study.

The discovery does not tell us definitively how the mutation might have given its subjects an evolutionary advantage, if any, however some have conjectured that it might simply be a byproduct of some more important mutation. Lighter-skinned people are thought to have adapted the lighter pigmentation in order to make more Vitamin D in gloomy geographies, and the gene could have been caused by that lightening, for example.

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Scientists have discovered the gene responsible for blonde hair.
blonde, gene, discovered, scientists
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2014-03-02
Monday, 02 Jun 2014 01:03 PM
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