Scientists May Have Discovered a Cure for Hair Loss
We may be getting one step closer to finding a cure for baldness.
Using stem cells from mice, scientists have managed to create skin in a lab, complete with hair follicles, for the first time.
They grew both the upper and lower layers, known as the epidermis and dermis respectively, marking the first time a skin model has been made so closely resembling natural hair than any previous treatment.
The new skin model could also prove useful for testing drugs and reduce the practice of animal testing as well as shedding fresh light on hair growth.
Stem cell therapy has been suggested as a possible future treatment for hair loss for years.
Although various methods of generating skin tissue have already been developed their ability to imitate the real thing falls short.
Skin consists of 20 or more cell types and these models only contain about five or six. Most notably none is capable of hair growth.
Professor Karl Koehler originally began using pluripotent stem cells – which can turn into any organ – to create tiny versions of the inner ear, known as ‘organoids’.
But his team discovered they were generating skin cells in addition to inner ear tissue, so they decided to try to coax them into sprouting hair follicles.
The research published in Cell Reports found a single skin ‘bud’ developed in culture can give rise to both the epidermis and dermis.
This allows hair follicles to form the same way as they would in a mouse’s body.
Prof Koehler, of Indiana University, said: ‘You can see the organoids with your naked eye.
‘It looks like a little ball of pocket lint that floats around in the culture medium. The skin develops as a spherical cyst and then the hair follicles grow outward in all directions – like dandelion seeds.’
The researchers were unable to identify exactly which types of hairs developed on the surface of the organoid.
But they believe the skin grew a variety of hair follicle types similar to those present naturally on the coat of a mouse.
The skin organoid itself consisted of three or four different types of dermal cells and four types of epidermal cells.
This diverse combination more closely mimics mouse skin than previously developed skin tissues.
By observing the development of this more lifelike skin organoid the researchers learned the two layers of skin cells must grow together in a specific way in order for hair follicles to develop.
As the epidermis grew in the culture medium it began to take the rounded shape of a cyst. The dermal cells then wrapped themselves around these cysts. When this process was disrupted hair follicles never appeared.