That’s right Faithful Readers, scientists have finally found the werewolf gene. But before you get too excited, I’m talking about werewolf syndrome, officially known as hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis is a disorder that causes people to sprout thick long hair on their faces and bodies and at long last scientists have discovered a genetic mutation responsible for it. The people suffering this disorder “look” like werewolves and may even be responsible for a few old werewolf legends from before people learned that this was a medical condition, not magic.
Time to get all scientific on your asses! Hypertrichosis, sometimes called “werewolf syndrome” is an incredibly rare condition, with less than 100 cases documented worldwide. In spite of being such a rare disorder, researchers knew that hypertrichosis runs in families, and in 1995 they traced the approximate location of the mutation to a section of the X chromosome (one of the two sex chromosomes) in a Mexican family affected by hypertrichosis.
Women with the syndrome grow thick patches of hair on their bodies, while men with the conditions have hair covering their faces and eyelids. This past March, a Thai girl with hypertrichosis got into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s hairiest child.
But it was a man in China with congenital hypertrichosis who helped researchers break the case. Xue Zhang, a professor of medical genetics at the Peking Union Medical College, tested the man and his family and found an extra bunch of genes on the X chromosome. The researchers then returned to the Mexican family and also found an extra bunch of genes (which was different from that of the Chinese man) in the same location of their X chromosomes.
The extra genes may trigger a hair-growth gene nearby, resulting in a werewolf-like appearance. The most likely gene in this theory, wrote study researcher Pragna Patel of the University of Southern California, is a gene called SOX3, which is known to play a role in hair growth.
So, it’s not a supernatural werewolf story, but rather a modern day genetic one. Props to the scientists for getting one step closer to figuring out this mystery.
For more info on hypertrichosis check out this old post on the disorder.