September 02, 2004
Mouse Follicle Stem Cells Isolated, Used To Grow New Fur

Results from a mouse study point in the direct of a future therapy to restore lost hair in humans.

Master cells nestled within hair follicles of the skin retain the ability to form new hairs as well as skin, new research reported in the September 3 issue of Cell confirms. While earlier work had suggested the presence of stem cells in skin, the new study by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators at Rockefeller University in New York provides the first direct evidence that cells extracted from the hair follicles of mice exhibit all of the defining features of true stem cells. The skin stem cells offer potential new methods to reverse baldness and boost wound healing in burn victims and those suffering from other skin injuries, the researchers said.

The putative skin stem cells reproduce themselves seemingly indefinitely in the laboratory, the study found. When engrafted onto the backs of hairless mice, the cells also formed stretches of skin, tufts of hair, and sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance known as sebum that lubricates skin and hair.

"We've identified cells within skin that bear all the characteristics of true stem cells--the ability for self renewal and the multipotency required to differentiate into all lineages of epidermis and hair," said Elaine Fuchs, cell biologist at Rockefeller University and senior author of the study. "The results demonstrate for the first time that individual cells isolated from hair follicles can be cultured in the laboratory and retain a capacity to make multiple cell types when grafted."

The researchers isolated two types of stem cells from hair follicles. (same article here)

“An important aspect of this paper was that we found we could isolate and characterize these cells by taking advantage of the cell-surface markers that we had previously identified from molecular profiling experiments,” said Fuchs. “We can now utilize similar methods to begin to compare mouse and human skin stem cells.”

The scientists' analyses of the biochemical characteristics of the isolated mouse stem cells revealed that the bulge contained two distinct populations of stem cells. One type, called “basal” cells, is active during early development. In contrast the “suprabasal” cells appear only after the first hair generation cycle. This distinction offers biologists an opportunity to compare the two groups of cells, in terms of the control that the bulge exerts over their proliferation and differentiation.

The two stem cell types appear at different stages of development.

According to Fuchs, previous studies in her laboratory and others suggested that a structure called the bulge, which is located within each hair follicle, might contain stem cells. Those studies hinted that the stem cells might provide the source of both new skin and hair follicles.

...

The scientists' analyses of the biochemical characteristics of the isolated mouse stem cells revealed that the bulge contained two distinct populations of stem cells. One type, called “basal” cells, is active during early development. In contrast the “suprabasal” cells appear only after the first hair generation cycle. This distinction offers biologists an opportunity to compare the two groups of cells, in terms of the control that the bulge exerts over their proliferation and differentiation.

Both isolated stem cell types can be used to grow hair.

Despite the fact that the stem cells expressed many different genes, both populations were capable of self-renewal when grown in culture, said Fuchs. The researchers also found that both types of cells — even after being cultured — produced hair follicles when grafted onto the skin of a strain of hairless mice.

“I think clinicians will be interested in the fact that both of these populations can produce hair follicles after culture,” said Fuchs. “Previously, researchers have done similar transplant experiments with dissected parts of the hair follicle. And, while they've had evidence that hair follicle structures were forming, they didn't see generation of hair.

“In contrast, in our experiments, we saw quite a density of hairs, in some cases at a density that's very similar to that of normal mouse fur,” said Fuchs. “While we are not yet able to achieve such density a hundred percent of the time, the fact that we do get such density in some cases tells us that the system is working well. We just need to tweak it to the point where we can get such results consistently,” she said.

Imagine this process repeated using human hair follicles to isolate human follicle stem cells. Those stem cells could be grown up and used to get hair growing again on bald scalps. One can also imagine a modified variation of this approach being used to develop cells that can restore hair color in aged hair follicles.

This is not the first result along these lines. See: Transplanted Stem Cells Grow Hair In Mice. However, the latest result goes further in locating, categorizing, and characterizing the stem cells found in hair follicles.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 September 02 01:58 PM  Biotech Organ Replacement


Comments
Toby Sargeant said at September 2, 2004 3:36 PM:

Combine this with a little bit of transfection to select new hair colours and types, and maybe the first major introduction the public will get to gene therapy will be cosmetic, not medical. Wouldn't that speak volumes...

Randall Parker said at September 2, 2004 3:53 PM:

Toby, That will actually be great for a few reasons:

1) Private individuals with their own money will pay for surface-level rejuvenation. This will provide money to improve the techniques and accelerate the rate of innovation for rejuvenation therapies.

2) Skin rejuvenated with stem cell therapy will generate less free radicals for the rest of the body. The body will be generally younger if the skin is younger. So while the therapy will be aimed at improving appearances it will likely extend life.
Besides skin cancer kills people. Younger skin will be at lesser risk of skin cancer.

3) Rejuvenation of outward appearances will convince the public that deeper level rejuvenation is possible.

Toby Sargeant said at September 2, 2004 5:35 PM:

Interesting points. Anything that gets the population at large talking rationally about gene therapy will be a good thing, and the most likely way to get that to happen will be via something that will be adopted by celebrities. Come to think of it, the world's first 'fro transplant would probably be quite humourous.

For the record, though, skin cancer has a 5 year survival rate of 90-97% (depending on localization) and skin cancer directly kills only 7,600 people a year in the US. I don't know if deaths as a result of metastases in other organs are attributed to the initial skin cancer however.

Donald Tan said at September 20, 2004 10:05 AM:

Is this hair cell regrowth still in laboratory experiement phase? Has any human gone under beta-testing and the result is desirable? How effectively can the hair cell regeneration be controlled such that hair regrowth will be normal but cell reproduction would not turn into some kind of tumour on the scalp?

David Rosendahl said at March 10, 2005 8:06 AM:

I am a willing candidate that would be more than glad to undergo treatment.
I am a healthy 28 year old male who has been experiencing male pattern baldness for the last 4 years and am willing to undergo stem cell regrowth treatment rather than taking propecia or having a painfull transplant. Will anyone consider me to be a experimental candidate?

Don Coleman said at May 27, 2005 12:11 AM:

Is there any more recent news on the status of the hair re-growth research?? I happened on the story in the Science magazine reporting the 100 best advances of 2004. People will obviously be standing in line if it works and is safe.

joe kap said at August 30, 2005 7:56 PM:

hello

i 2 am experiencing male pattern baldness...
if any one has any info on this new science please let me know

thanks soo much

joe

Nick said at October 2, 2005 12:05 AM:

Oh wow, this is awesome. I have a full-head of hair and 20yrs old. But I believe I'm in the very beginning phase of balding. I just want to nip this thing in the bud. I would appreciate any info on the subject matter. Even though I'm pretty much broke at this point, I would work 1200 jobs in order to make enough cash to pay for this procedure. Maybe I'm sounding kinda naive, but hey....if you don't have your hair....whaddya have?

Lowry said at March 11, 2006 12:11 AM:

Hi,

Im 29 male and full vertex balding also. If theres any room ill be interested in taking the human tests also.

keep me posted, thanx

rgds,

Lowry

Joshua alexander said at January 31, 2008 2:16 PM:

Hey,
use me like a lab rat. Im 27 and my hair is seriously thinning, so I am ready and willing to test out this new treatment if anybody is willing to use my scalp?

Let me know.

Thanks,

Josh.

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