Hair grows from cells located at the base of the hair follicle. Hair follicles continuously cycle through growth, rest, and re-growth phases. In many people with hair loss, however, the follicles do not cycle correctly, with a growing number of abnormal follicles entering longer resting phases and producing only tiny invisible hairs.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have isolated stem cells responsible for hair follicle growth. The findings, may serve as the foundation for new hair loss and skin grafting treatments.
To test their theory, researchers used sophisticated cell labeling techniques to track the decedents of the stem cells during normal hair growth and isolate them in adult mice. They transplanted a slurry of these cells into the skin of a different set of adult mice with no immune systems. (The absence of an immune system prevented the mice from rejecting the stem cell transplant.)
Within four weeks, the transplanted cells made new hair follicles that produced new hair. "Now that we can isolate stem cells involved in hair growth, we can develop targets for manipulating hair growth," say specialists . Researchers say that they hope to one day isolate stem cells in an adult scalp and transplant those cells to other areas of the scalp, generating new follicles and hair growth.
The findings have implications not only for hair growth, but also for burn treatments. The cells that have been isolated not only make hair follicles, but also can make other skin cells.
Thus researchers of the study conclude on a positive note saying that one day, doctors may be able to isolate and use stem cells in skin grafts for burn patients, generating better grafts with hairs.