The study conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said the scientists made the discovery by accident while researching how certain cancer tumors form.
Researchers said they found that a protein called KROX 20, commonly associated with nerve development, turned on in skin cells that become the hair shaft.
The cells produce a protein called stem cell factor, which was essential for hair color.
When scientists deleted the stem cell factor gene in the hair cells of mice, their fur turned white.
When scientists deleted the other protein KROX 20, no hair grew and the mice became bald.
The study, published in the Genes and Development Journal, can be read here.
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