Inaugural lecture: Marvellous Melanocytes - How our skin and hair is coloured
From Dee Davison
Melanocytes, the cells that make the melanin pigment in our skin and hair, are remarkable. They begin life as part of the developing nervous system but break away and travel through the skin of the embryo. They home in on the hair follicles as they form, as well as ultimately residing in the skin. They make pigment which they export into nearby skin and hair cells. This pigment, in people of European origin in particular, is varied in colour, from fiery red and golden blonde through brown to dark black.
For several decades, Professor Jackson has studied genetic changes that affect these cells, beginning with “coat colour” mutations in mice that date back to the origins of genetics, to recently analysing the genetics of hair colour in 500,000 people in the UK Biobank study. Identifying the genes involved and examining their biology helps us to understand how the marvellous melanocytes develop, find their way and control the colour of the pigment they make.