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Researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have discovered a link between a gene and the degree of curliness in hair of European descent. This finding reportedly has potential applications in the forensic identification of hair structures, or could be used to manipulate hair with proteins. The research, led by Professor Nick Martin and Sarah Medland, PhD, of the QIMR Genetic Epidemiology Laboratory, was published in the December 2009 edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.
According to the study, approximately 45% of Europeans have straight hair, 40% have wavy hair and 15% have curly hair. The researchers studied 5,000 Australian twins of European ancestry for more than 30 years to determine which genes influence straight hair in these populations.
Results showed that a common form of the trichohyalin gene often leads to curly hair; however another form of the gene has developed in European hair that causes straight hair. While the researchers did not discover the trichohyaline gene, their research identified the link between the gene and the degree of hair curliness, meaning that variations of the gene could predict straight, wavy or curly hair.
This research is suggested to potentially enable forensic investigators to create a physical description of suspects directly from their DNA, or DNA samples from crime scenes could identify whether the suspect has straight or curly hair. The discovery may also lead to new ways to make hair straighter or curlier by manipulating proteins.