New study finds eight separate genes control red hair, not just MC1R

The mystery of redheads’ weird and wonderful ginger genetics is one step closer to being solved, with a new study finding that a grand total of eight separate genes are responsible for red hair.

For many years, it’s been believed that one gene, the king of all genes, MC1R (melanocortin 1 receptor), held the only key to red hair’s secret ways, with its recessive ways – a copy from each parent – giving the fuel to our flame. But actually, it turns out that red hair is more complex than that. Then again, whoever said that redheads were simple, eh?

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe they have solved the mystery of red hair and how it occurs, along with how blonde and brunette hair occurs, too. The research is the largest genetic study of hair colour to date, looking at DNA from almost 350,000 people from the UK.

The study found that the majority of people with two MC1R copies actually had blonde or light brown hair, while the eight newly identified genes contributed around 90 percent of ginger hair.

And in comparison, it was found that up to 200 genes influenced blonde and brunette hair, but these mostly affected hair texture rather than colour.

We find it absolutely fascinating that more and more information is coming out about how natural red hair occurs. Red hair is an area of genetics that is still so little known, it’s great that more research is being dedicated to work out how such a rare genetic gift occurs.

We can only hope that more research will be conducted on redhead genetics, and that learning more about it helps to make people realise how special it is!

 

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