Stem cells that researchers have isolated from the skin of mice have the power to self-renew when cultured in the laboratory, as well as to differentiate into skin and functioning hair follicles when grafted onto mice. The findings mean that the human equivalent of these stem cells, which scientists are also trying to isolate, could ultimately be used to regenerate skin and hair, the researchers said.
Stem cells -- isolated from embryos or from adult tissue -- are immature progenitor cells with the capability to differentiate into a variety of specialized cells that form tissues and organs. Scientists are working toward using stem cells to grow mature specialized cells that could regenerate damaged or diseased skin, brain, heart or other organs. The new findings constitute another step toward understanding how to mimic the chemical signals that the cells require to differentiate into mature tissues, according to Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Elaine Fuchs. Fuchs and colleagues at The Rockefeller University published their findings in the September 3, 2004, issue of the journal Cell.
According to Fuchs, previous studies in her laboratory and others suggested that a structure called the bulge, which is located within each hair follicle, might contain stem cells. Those studies hinted that the stem cells might provide the source of both new skin and hair follicles.
Jennifer Michalowski | EurekAlert!
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