One of the two major components of the human hair follicle, epithelial stem cells, were converted successfully in a lab from adult cells recently. The study was led by Dr. Xiaowei “George” Xu, PHD and associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory of Medicine and Dermatology, and his team at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The team included researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s departments of Biology and Dermatology, as well as New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Human Hair Follicle Growth on Mice
Xu and his team have been working on epithelial component of the hair follicle, admitting that there was difficulty in the past producing the required amount until their recent discovery. When the team injected epithelial stem cells in immunocompromised mice, Xu discovered numerous signs of cell regeneration, mainly in hair follicles, and the stem cells created a structurally recognizable hair shaft. This raises the possibility of eventual hair regeneration in people.
When the epithelial stem cells were mixed with the follicular inductive dermal cells of mouse, and grafted onto the immunodeficient mice, the results actually showed growth of functional human epidermis and follicles structurally identical to human hair follicle.
Other Hair Component Still a Challenge
While epithelial stem cells do aid in regeneration of cells and even wound healing, Xu acknowledges missing second major factor in hair regeneration – dermal papillae cells
“When a person loses hair, they lose both types of cells.“ Xu explains. “We have solved one major problem, the epithelial component of the hair follicle. We need to figure out a way to also make new dermal papillae cells, and no one has figured that part out yet.“