Fruit flies- the key to hairless legs?

Fed up with shaving and waxing? Well, hairy legs could soon be a thing of the past.

A recent genetic study has discovered a new molecule to repress hair growth on the legs of the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, which one day, could lead to a new method of hair removal.

Shaving, waxing and many other well-known methods of hair removal were voted Britain’s most hated beauty chore (1).  But with Spring looming, women everywhere are dusting off their razors and getting their legs out.

Hair removal is regarded as the ‘holy grail’ of the beauty industry. In 2011, the hair removal market was worth US$2.1 billion, showing that tapping into this niche has hair-raising potential for businessmen and scientists alike (1).

But why are fruit flies important?

Well, to biologists, the fruit fly is a powerful tool and model organism, used worldwide for genetic and developmental research due to its small genetic sequence (formed of just 4 chromosomes compared to the human’s 46), simple diet, and short life cycle (2) . This allows scientists to analyse the DNA of a simple creature, effectively, cheaply and quickly, before applying these concepts to large, more complex DNA sequences, like humans.

Alistair McGregor and his team of scientists at Oxford Brookes University have made a new discovery during their studies of the ‘naked valley’ of Drosophila.  This area on the upper leg of the fruit fly, is known to have a diverse range of ‘trichomes’ (hair-like projections), which vary in size and shape. McGregor has discovered a molecule, mir-92a, that prevents trichome formation on the ‘naked valley’ (3).

This has sparked excitement, not only by geeky scientists in labs, but beauty gurus worldwide, who think that this could be the key to having permanently hair-free legs, making razors and wax strips tools of the past.

McGregor’s research could be used to indicate similar molecules in the human body which could be targeted in order to prevent hair growth, saving not only your time, but money too.

This method of hair removal would prevent those awkward stubbly mid-wax days and shaving accidents. However, research on fruit flies is a lot easier than humans.

Treatments like this are not likely to be available for a long while yet, as stringent research and clinical trials are needed to identify the correct molecules in the human body.

The long-term effectiveness of such treatment is unknown, and scientists fear that it could prevent the growth of hair everywhere, removing beloved hair on the head, as well as eye brows and eye lashes.

Could the secret of hair-free living lie in the genome of the fruit fly, and would this ever be an effective method of hair removal?

Well, there’s a long while yet before we’ll see this treatment at the local beauty parlour. So for the mean time, you might just have to stick with your trusty razor.

References

(1) The Powder Room. (2013). ‘Women spend more than two months of their life shaving their legs’. Available: http://www.lady.co.uk/blogs/tags/tag/legs. Last accessed 13th February 2014.

(2) Richard Twyman. (2002). Model Organisms: The Fruit Fly. Available: http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTD020807.html. Last accessed 13th February 2014.

(3) Arif, S., Murat, S., Almudi, I., Nunes, M. D., Bortolamiol-Becet, D., McGregor, N. S., … & McGregor, A. P. (2013). Evolution of mir-92a Underlies Natural Morphological Variation in Drosophila melanogaster. Current Biology, 23(6), 523-528.

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