Scientists think they have unlocked the chemical triggers that cause puberty: a reaction in the KISS-1 gene. That awkward period of intense growth and change has long been a mystery. We know what happens, but we don’t know what triggers it to begin.
Now researchers have found a chemical reaction in the brain that they believe starts that period of growth spurts, pimples and mood swings.
This could be great news for parents worried about the increasingly early onset of puberty. Knowing what triggers these changes in the body could be a first step towards finding out why it’s happening earlier. Hopefully, that will lead to finding ways to slow it down again. No one wants to take their 7-year-old bra shopping.
Puberty typically occurs somewhere between 10 and 16 years old. For girls, it’s generally a little earlier than for boys. Until now, what set off the process was a mystery even to geneticists. Now researchers at Harvard think they’ve isolated the chemical reactions that cause it. As Science Daily says:
It all begins with a kiss — the KiSS 1 gene, which produces a protein in the hypothalamus. When the protein connects with its receptor, the GPR54 gene, puberty begins.
Their first priority is to help doctors begin developing treatments for kids whose development starts very early or very late; both conditions can cause lasting health problems.
I hope this research will also play into finding out why so many healthy kids are simply starting to mature earlier. It’d be great to see that trend reversed.