A group including state-affiliated research institute Riken has started a joint study to develop technology to analyze human health based on changes in people’s hair shape and components.

The group hopes to develop such technology in two years to improve lifestyles and propose appropriate supplements.

With the future participation of a medical institution, it will aim to apply the technology toward promoting early discovery of cancer, dementia and other diseases, officials said.

The group includes wig maker Aderans Co., Yahoo Japan Corp. and precision instrument maker Shimadzu Corp..

Hair is already used to detect traces of narcotics and other drugs.

But Takashi Tsuji, leader of the group’s Riken crew, said some research suggests that some changes in hair components are unique to people with such diseases as cancer and diabetes.

Stress and exhaustion are known factors in graying or hair loss, but there is no benchmark for correlating qualitative changes in hair with declining health or for quantifying the relationship.

Blood and urine tests are commonly used to gauge people’s health. Since hair grows about 1 cm a month, a sample of about 12 cm allows one’s health over the past year to be examined.

For the initial phase of the study and to form a database, the research group plans to ask about 10,000 healthy people across the nation to provide 20 to 30 hairs each and fill out questionnaires on their health and lifestyle, the officials said.

If the analytical technology is developed in two years, the group will enlist the help of a medical institution to help identify substances or component changes in hair that will contribute to the early diagnosis of cancer and other illnesses.

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