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Scientists discover key contribution to Melanesian blond hair color

05-04-2012 08:55 BJT

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Researchers studying pigmentation in the South Pacific have uncovered a key genetic contribution to hair color. The findings, to be published Friday in the journal Science, reveal a functional genetic variant which has led the islanders to have simultaneously the darkest skin pigmentation outside of Africa and the highest prevalence of blond hair outside of Europe.

Human skin and hair color varies considerably both within and among populations. Previous studies have shown that pigmentation is largely heritable but also suggest it has evolved to adapt to the sun's ultraviolet rays -- with populations near the equator possessing darker skin and hair color. However, the Melanesian population of the Solomon Islands, East of Papua New Guinea, differs from this trend. About five to 10 percent of the Melanesian population have blond hair.

The research, co-led by researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK and Stanford University in the U.S., sought to find out what has caused these islanders to possess such discordant patterns of pigmentation, some of the greatest in the world.

The team took samples from a pool of Melanesian participants, 43 with blond hair and 42 with dark hair, and carried out genetic analysis to compare their genomes. They identified a mutation in the TYRP1 gene that seems to be responsible for the blond hair.

The researchers say this blond-hair-causing mutation is absent outside of Oceania and that it does not appear to have come from Europe.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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