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Melissa Harris

Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

For Dr. Melissa Harris, getting a gray hair is cause for celebration! This is because Dr. Harris studies the melanocyte stem cells that reside within our hair follicles, and it is the loss of these stem cells that causes gray hair. She has found that melanocyte stem cells are an ideal somatic stem cell population to investigate the cell biology, genetics, and genomics behind the question, “Why do we age the way we do?”

Dr. Harris’s training makes her well suited to this task; she’s studied pigmentation from the beginning while mixing in a combination of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, and genomics along the way. Her interest in biological research as a career began in earnest as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis. She interned in labs studying the population genetics of Dungeness crab, and applied genetic analysis to help uncover the genetic basis of coat color in horses. Dr. Harris performed her graduate work in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, also at UC Davis, where she studied with Dr. Carol Erickson. Here she used the chick embryo as a model to investigate the role of transmembrane receptors in directing the migration of melanoblasts, melanocyte precursors, into the skin.

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See also: Academia University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) - Public Research university.

Details last updated 13-Feb-2020

Melissa Harris News

Studies on melanocyte stem cells to prevent or reverse gray hair

Washington Post - 19-Dec-2020

Greying of hair is irrespective of age and gender; Scientists work on stem cells


Sleeping melanocyte stem cells cause greying of hair due to ageing

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) - 23-Jan-2020

Further research will give us a better understanding about stem cells in general


Why Does Hair Turn Gray? Scientists May Know

Newsweek - 04-May-2018

Melanocytes make melanin which gives our hair its colour. Special stem cells then add melanocyte...