Beauty

Scientists have discovered an “uncombable hair” gene

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Moya Crockett
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No matter how much we soak it in expensive ‘smoothing’ serum or attack it with a Tangle Teezer, some of us are afflicted with hair that permanently looks as though we’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards.

Now, scientists have discovered why some people’s hair is constantly tied in knots – and it’s nothing to do with poor grooming standards.

Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Toulouse in Germany and France have identified mutations in three genes responsible for what is known as “Struwwelpeter syndrome”, aka “uncombable hair syndrome”.

People with uncombable hair syndrome are often blonde with extremely dry, frizzy locks, according to the scientists involved in the recent study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

hair

People with uncombable hair syndrome often have fair, frizzy manes.

Little is known about the phenomenon, with around 100 cases documented worldwide since it was first recorded in 1973, but researchers believe there are more people struggling with it than you might expect.



“We assume that there are much more people affected [sic],” says Professor Regina Betz from the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Bonn. “Those who suffer from uncombable hair do not necessarily seek help for this from a doctor or hospital.”

The scientists in Bonn sequenced the genes of 11 children affected by uncombable hair syndrome and compared them to large genetic databases, and discovered three genetic mutations involved in forming the hair.



“We can now secure the clinical diagnosis of ‘uncombable hair’ with molecular genetic methods,” says Professor Betz.

However, she is at pains to emphasise that while constantly tangled hair is the result of mutated genes, it’s also nothing to worry about: uncombable hair syndrome generally occurs in isolation, with no other related health problems.

It’s tiresome, says Betz. “However, those affected have no need to otherwise worry.”

Images: Walt Disney Pictures, iStock

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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