Scientists from the University of Alabama (Birmingham) followed a reaction that could cause early graying and the development of vitiligo, a skin pigment disease.
Experts believe that the gene that regulates the production of melanin in the skin, interferes with the processes of self-restoration of immunity. The name of this gene is MITF, it “indicates” pigment cells when they should produce a protein substance that regulates the synthesis of melanin.
Scientists have discovered that in rodents exposed to early grazing, the MITF protein substance is produced in excess, which theoretically could lead to a rapid depletion of pigment cells. The researchers made the assumption that the rodents in the body which will produce a smaller amount of MITF, gray hair should slow down. However, it turned out that this was not the case: such rodents turned gray in the same short time. To find out why this happened, the experts initiated a new study.
MITF provides control, both on the production of melanin, and on the work of the genes responsible for the release of interferons - protein substances of the immune system, enhancing the quality of the fight against viral diseases. Interferons are an integral part of innate protection and are in the first line of immunity in the fight against pathogenic microorganisms. They block the reproduction of viral cells and activate all parts of the immune system, accelerating the production of antigens. Without the required amount of the protein substance MITF, an excessive amount of interferons was produced in rodents, which led to the fact that immunity entered into the fight against melanocytes. Scientists have concluded: protein inhibits gene expression, which stimulated interferons.
In their additional projects, experts also found that when imitating a viral infection in rodents by injecting polycytidylic acid, the effect was the same. This can explain the early graying of people or the development of vitiligo immediately after a viral infection.
However, many people get sick with the flu or other viral lesions, but the disorder is not found in everyone. Why? In all likelihood, there should be some genetic factor or individual hypersensitivity (a tendency to similar disorders).
The researchers, together with their team, hope to continue their work in the future, studying the binding mechanisms between age-related changes and the work of stem cells. Further experiments will help to understand how the aging process of the human body takes place, and whether it is possible to stop them at some stage, or to return the young state to the cells and organs.
The course of the study is described in detail on the pages of PLOS Biology (http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003648).
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