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'Blond Genes' May Vary Around the World
Date:5/3/2012

THURSDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- All blonds are not alike, according to a new study that finds different genes dictate flaxen locks in different areas of the globe.

The genetic variant that causes many dark-skinned people from the Solomon Islands to have blond hair is different from the gene possessed by blond Europeans, the study found. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found that this particular variant is absent in the genomes of Europeans.

"Since most studies in human genetics only include participants of European descent, we may be getting a very biased view of which genes and mutations influence the traits we investigate," study co-senior author Carlos Bustamante, professor of genetics at Stanford, said in a university news release. "Here, we sought to test whether one of the most striking human traits, blond hair, had the same -- or different -- genetic underpinning in different human populations."

The frequency of blond hair in the Solomon Islands is between 5 percent and 10 percent, the researchers said.

"They have this very dark skin and bright blond hair," study co-senior author Sean Myles, a former Stanford postdoctoral scholar who is now an assistant professor at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, said in the release. "It was mind-blowing. As a geneticist on the beach watching the kids playing, you count up the frequency of kids with blond hair, and say, 'Wow, it's 5 to 10 percent.'"

Many locals assumed their blond hair was the result of sun exposure or high fish consumption. Others believed it was a trait passed on by European explorers. The study authors, however, sought to determine if there was a unique genetic basis for this characteristic.

In conducting the study, which is scheduled to be published in the May 4 issue of Science, the researchers assessed Islanders' hair and skin color using a light reflectance meter. The investigators also took partic
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