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When an experimental treatment causes a profound change in hair color

A few years ago, a man with cystinosis received an experimental treatment. However, the researchers behind this treatment came up with some pretty unlikely side effects. Indeed, the patient's hair has undergone a profound genetic modification.

Excess cystine in the organs

Serendipity refers to an unexpected discovery . For example, in 2017, Japanese researchers obtained a new polymer capable of "repairing" itself by initially exploring an entirely different solution to prevent the breakage of the screens of smartphones and other tablets. Serendipity is not just about technology, however, but about many fields, including medicine.

A recent article in The Atlantic tells the story of Jordan Janz, a 20-year-old Canadian. In 2019, he was affected by a genetic disease which gradually got the better of him:cystinosis. It induces an excess of cystine , an amino acid, in the cells of organs such as the kidneys (mainly), but also the eyes, the brain, the liver, the pancreas and the muscles. On average, the life expectancy of patients does not exceed thirty years.

Jordan Janz received an experimental modified stem cell treatment that had several side effects . It was particularly a question of painful sores in the mouth altering his ability to eat, but also the loss of his pale blond hair.

When an experimental treatment causes a profound change in hair color

Very changeable hair color

Over the months, the patient began to get better and his hair grew back. However, their color was no longer the same. Indeed, her new hair was very dark, almost black. Since then, the color of her hair has changed again, now pulling on dark blond. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (USA) behind the treatment reacted to these changes in hair color. According to them, the darkening of the patient's hair was probably a sign that the therapy was working well .

Jordan Janz is not the only patient who has seen his hair darken. Out of five individuals who received the same treatment, four are in the same situation. In the fifth patient, the change affects the regrowth of his hair. The fact is that all of these patients are Caucasian. In addition, people with cystinosis are often paler than other family members .

Previous research has shown that the gene responsible for the disease also plays a role in the production of certain types of melanin , the pigment that influences the color of skin and hair. The phenomenon therefore does not concern non-Caucasians, so there may not be any correlation between the severity of the disease and pigmentation.