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A solution for baldness
Scientists use stem cells to bioengineer fully functional hair follicles

A research group headed by Prof Takashi Tsuji of the Research Institute for Science and Technology at the Tokyo University of Science and Director of Organ Technologies, have demonstrated that they can bioengineer fully functional hair follicles with stem cells. As well as providing a ray hope to bald men around the world who want to regrow their hair, their research also shows the potential applications of how adult tissue-derived follicular stem cells can be used as a bioengineered organ replacement therapy.

Their research “Fully functional hair follicle regeneration through the rearrangement of stem cells and their niches” is published in Nature Communications, 17 April 2012.

The research team says in their paper that they have demonstrated “fully functional hair organ regeneration via the intracutaneous transplantation of a bioengineered pelage and vibrissa follicle germ. The pelage and vibrissae are reconstituted with embryonic skin-derived cells and adult vibrissa stem cell regionderived cells, respectively.”

They point out that the bioengineered hair follicle develops the correct structures and forms proper connections with surrounding host tissues, such as the epidermis, arrector pili muscle and nerve fibres. The bioengineered follicles also show restored hair growth cycles and piloerection.

They note that almost all organs, including ectodermal organs such as the hair follicle, tooth and salivary gland, develop from an organ germ which is induced by epithelial and mesenchymal interactions during embryonic organogenesis.

The research group previously reported a novel bioengineering method for reconstituting regenerated organ germ from the tooth and hair follicle as a three-dimensional cell processing method, which, they say, significantly advanced the promise of future organ replacement regenerative therapies.

Their bioengineering method can reproduce “all hair types with correct hair structures in accordance with the original hair follicle types”. However, they say that when they introduce additional cells from the other regions of hair follicle, which contain melanoblast stem cells, this caused the bioengineered hair to be pigmented with a black colour.

Importantly, hair plays an important role in thermoregulation, physical insulation and sensitivity to noxious stimuli. To do this the engrafted follicle must be able to connect to the arrector pili muscle and nerve and the follicle must show a piloerection capability. The researchers note in their paper that: “All bioengineered pelage and vibrissa hair follicles were observed to connect to the muscle tissues and to connect to the nerve fibres similar to natural hair follicles.”

They also showed that the bioengineered follicles exhibit neurotransmitter-induced piloerection capability.

The scientists conclude that their research shows new evidence of fully functional hair follicle regeneration through the rearrangement of various stem cells and their niches in bioengineered hair follicles, which are regenerated from bioengineered hair follicle germ.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms1784

 Date of upload: 20th Jun 2012


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