Fixating on freckles

By John Pastor • Published: April 7th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Megan Fox and Pierce Brosnan are known for their movie roles and striking good looks, but only sharp-eyed observers of the silver screen will notice something else in common.

Did anyone say freckles?

Freckles are clusters of pigment that become more pronounced with exposure to sunlight, especially in people with fair complexions.

It turns out these movie stars may share a genetic trait found in some people with brown hair and blue eyes.

Researchers associated with the National Institutes of Health compared the DNA of more than 2,000 people, looking for phrases in the genetic alphabet that spell specific patterns of skin pigmentation.

Freckles aren’t a disorder in any way, but genes involved in skin coloration have been known to play roles in human health and disease.

Scientists looked to Iceland to get a fix on freckles, because people who hail from regions far from the equator tend to have less pigment in their skin, hair and eyes, and are more sensitive to sunlight.

The researchers were intrigued by the Interferon Regulatory Factor Four gene. Scientists call it the IRF4 gene for short, and it was known to be active in white blood cells that fight viruses and harmful bacteria.

IRF4 was linked in the new study with skin cells that make the pigment melanin.

Further investigation found that IRF4 is associated with sunlight sensitivity, brown hair, blue eyes and freckles.

Researchers say the discovery could add insight into skin cancer, which is caused by genetic and environmental interactions.

Bloggers are calling it the Pierce Brosnan gene, and it is now among about 30 genes associated with skin pigments … including one for people with freckles and red hair.

Believe it or not, that gene does not have a celebrity associated with it … yet.

We suspect it is only a matter of time.