Going Blonde with Fungus
Currently, the only way that hair stylists can make tresses go from brunette to blonde is with hydrogen peroxide, a destructive chemical that can leave locks lifeless. But to the rescue come scientists from Japan, who have found a natural enzyme that can do the job without collateral damage (www.acs.org
At a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Kenzo Koike, Ph.D., explained that scientists went on a quest for milder bleaching agents. He found an enzyme from a type of white-rot fungus that naturally degrades melanin in hair in laboratory tests. Melanin is the pigment responsible for making hair dark.
"I think this is the first enzyme found that degrades melanin," he says, adding that it could be added to traditional hair bleaches to prevent hair damage, leading to hair care products that use less hydrogen peroxide.
Stock Tip: Invest in White-Rot Fungus
Koike is working on integrating it into conventional peroxide hair bleaches. Because the enzyme needs hydrogen peroxide to complete a chemical reaction, a small amount of peroxide is needed for a product to work. So far, researchers are hindered by having access to only small amounts of the enzyme - a setback they expect to resolve and move ahead with further tests, including clinical trials on humans.
Koike wants to determine exactly how the enzyme affects melanin. "Although I expect it can degrade melanin by its oxidation, we don't know the mechanism of the reaction. We should examine it and test it more and more."