Working with mice as a model organism, the scientists initially pinpointed a protein called GATA-3 as a possible trigger of hair channel development. Based on its location within the hair and the timing of its appearance, GATA-3 stood out as a strong candidate for instructing skin stem cells to transform into hair channels instead of hair. Analyzing mice previously engineered to lack this protein not only confirmed this suspicion, but led to the discovery of a genetic connection between the hair channel and hair: without GATA-3, the mice grew an unusually short and stubby coat.
"This study illustrates for the first time the interrelationship between hair and the hair channel on a genetic level," says first author Charles Kaufman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago who studied in the Fuchs lab at Rockefeller.
"Simply put, you can't have a proper hair without a channel."
The findings, reported in the Sept. 1 issue of Genes & Development, provide researchers with a clue about how to culture living hair in the laboratory.
"For 20 years, scientists have been able to grow hairless skin in a Petri dish from a sample of skin stem cells, and this technology has been useful clinically in the treatment of burns and wounds. However, cultivating hair has proven to be a far greater challenge," says Fuchs, professor and head of the Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at Rockefeller and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
"Part of the reason for this may be that researchers simply haven't appreciated the importance of the hair channel in forming th
Contact: Joseph Bonner