In a finding that will energize research into new treatments for hair loss, stem cells in mouse hair follicles have been shown to regenerate new hair and hair follicles after being implanted into the skin of mice. Writing in the April issue of Nature Biotechnology, George Cotsarelis and colleagues also show that the stem cells can turn into various types of skin cells.
Although scientists have suspected that hair follicles contain stem cells, the new work uses sophisticated cell labeling techniques in transgenic mice to isolate these cells and prove conclusively that they develop into all the mature cell types of the hair follicle and are therefore bona fide stem cells. When the stem cells were mixed with skin cells and transplanted into the skin of immunodeficient mice, they spontaneously grew into fully formed hair follicles that produced hair. The researchers also identified a set of genes that are 'turned on' in the stem cells, providing many new potential targets for altering hair growth. The isolation of hair follicle stem cells holds promise for the development of new approaches to treating hair loss and other disorders of the hair and skin.
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