Thanks to a tiny fish called the stickleback, Stanford developmental biologist David Kingsley, PhD, and his team uncovered the genetic basis for blond hair earlier this year.
Kingsley's research caught the eye of the team at HHMI Bulletin, which featured his discovery in their fall issue. As described in the piece, Kingsley and fellow researcher Catherine Guenther, PhD, discovered the change in a single point in the genetic sequence outside the gene itself. The discovery prompted a question because the gene, known as KITLG, is involved in many other key processes in developing organisms. Yet Kingsley found the control for hair color acted alone.
"The genetic mechanism that controls blond hair doesn’t alter the biology of any other part of the body. It’s a trait that’s skin deep, and only skin deep," Kingsley told HHMI.
The HHMI feature also includes a video of Kingsley - above - that provides glimpses into his lab and reveals the sources of his inspiration (as well as his penchant for purchasing telescopes).
And for a Friday giggle, check out his lab members spelling his name with their bodies here.
Becky Bach is a science-writing intern at the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.
Previously: It’s a blond thing: Stanford researchers suss out molecular basis of hair color, Something fishy: Threespine stickleback genome published by Stanford researchers and Hey guys, sometimes less is really more