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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Genetic basis of hair color

Manfred Kayser of Erasmus MC led a team of scientists in accurately tying genetic makeup to hair color. The team was 90% accurate in identifying red and black hair, and 80% accurate in identifying brown or blond hair.

Kayser and his colleagues used the genetic and hair color information from hundreds of Europeans to find the hair color genes. They narrowed the possibilities to 13 DNA markers, found in 11 different genes. Different combinations of these markers result in the different shades of hair color.

The researchers expect forensic scientists to make use of this new identification tool in the near future. Personally, I’m not sure this information will be all that helpful. Of all genetically-encoded physical traits, hair color must be the easiest to alter. Information on a suspect’s age, which can now be determined from markers in blood, seems a lot more useful to me.

Paris wig shop, by Arnaud de Gramont, 2009.

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