Are Bad Hair Days Genetic?

Frizzled6 Gene Mutant Causes Odd Hair Patterns

From the WebMD Archives

May 24, 2004 -- Another bad hair day? Don't blame your hairdresser. Maybe it's your genes.

Some people have hair that just doesn't line up right. Instead of proceeding from a single whorl at the top of the head, they may have multiple whorls. This gives them unruly, frizzled hair.

Why? Fruit flies seem to hold the answer. A mutant fruit fly gene called frizzled6 -- makes the bugs' bristles line up wrong. Instead of making a nice pattern, they point this way and that.

Mammals, it seems, have the same kind of gene. A Johns Hopkins research team led by Jeremy Nathans, MD, PhD, finds that mice missing their frizzled6 gene have wacko whorls of fur on their hind feet, head, and torso.

The findings appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Humans, too, sometimes have this same kind of frizzled hair -- and it tends to run in families.

And hair whorls may tell more about us than we think.

"Interestingly, a recent study has provided evidence for a link between handedness and the orientation of hair whorls on the scalp," the researchers note. "The same system that patterns hair may also play a role in left-right asymmetry in the brain."

SOURCE: Guo, N. Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, early online edition, 2004.