Thinning locks and silvered strands are an inevitable part of aging. But researchers have found another key that may eventually unlock the mystery of how to spark hair growth and stop the clock on grayed-out tresses, according to a new study published in the journal Cell and reported by ScienceDaily.

For the study, researchers from the New York University Langone Medical Center used genetic mouse models to see how Wnt (pronounced “wint”) signaling affected hair follicles and melanin-producing stem cells. (Wnt signaling is a network of protein passages involved in normal adult biological processes including hair growth and graying.)

Researchers found that any interference with Wnt signaling in hair follicle stems cells not only stopped hair re-growth but also prevented pigment-producing stem cells from activating to color hair. What’s more, scientists found that when Wnt activation didn’t happen, colored hair became gray.

“We have known for decades that hair follicle stem cells and pigment-producing melanocyte cells collaborate to produce colored hair, but the underlying reasons were unknown,” said lead study author Mayumi Ito, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU. “We discovered Wnt signaling is essential for coordinated actions of these two stem cell lineages critical for hair pigmentation.”

But what’s probably most of interest to consumers is that the study suggested manipulating Wnt passageways might be a way to restart hair growth and interrupt the unwanted whitening of locks.

If researchers are correct, these study findings may return hope to the hair-less and give graying panthers of both genders new reason to feel young again.

To learn more about how your hair turns gray, click here.