Researchers at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne) and the CHUV (Lausanne University Hospital) have discovered that some cells in the hair follicle belong to the true multipotent stem cell category and can differentiate into many cell types needed for hair growth and follicle replacement.
The research team has documented its findings in an advance online publication of the October 3 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers have proved that the clonogenic keratinocytes in hair follicles are true stem cells by using rat whisker follicles to demonstrate the inherent ability of these cells to differentiate into hair follicles. The Swiss researchers first isolated stem cells from rat whisker follicles labeled them and cultured them for 140 generations. These cells were injected into the skin of newborn mice and then the skin graft was given to nude mice. It was found that these progeny cells participated in the formation of eight types of cells including outer root sheath, inner root sheath, the hair shaft, the sebaceous gland and the epidermis. 125 days after this the stem cells were again isolated from the graft and subcloned and injected once again into the mice. These cells participated once again in the cell differentiation process. "With the progeny of a single stem cell, it would be theoretically possible to generate the complete hair bulb of a human being, and one that would last for years," said Yann Barrandon, lead researcher in the study.
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