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Saturday 21 September 2019

Scientists solve the mystery of how redheads inherit flaming locks

Stock photo: Deposit photos
Stock photo: Deposit photos
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Scientists have discovered eight genes linked to red hair, helping to solve a mystery of how redheads inherit their flaming locks.

The study - which also sheds light on blondes and brunettes - is the largest genetic study of hair colour to date.

It had been thought that red hair is controlled by a single gene, called MC1R. The new research sheds light on other genes that are involved.

Previous studies had shown that redheads inherit two versions of the MC1R gene that leads to red hair - one from their mum and one from their dad.

Although almost everyone with red hair has two copies of the red-haired version of MC1R, not everyone carrying two red-haired versions is a redhead. Scientists knew there must be other genes involved, but these have mostly remained a mystery until now.

Now researchers at the University of Edinburgh have looked at DNA from almost 350,000 people who had taken part in the UK Biobank study.

The study focused on people of European descent because they have greater variation in hair colour. In addition to the redhead genes, the researchers uncovered differences in almost 200 genes associated with blondes and brunettes

The study is published in Nature Communications.

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