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Genuine stem cells found in skin might treat hair loss, wounds

Master cells nestled within hair follicles of the skin retain the ability to form new hairs as well as skin, new research reported in the September 3 issue of Cell confirms. While earlier work had suggested the presence of stem cells in skin, the new study by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators at Rockefeller University in New York provides the first direct evidence that cells extracted from the hair follicles of mice exhibit all of the defining features of true stem cells. The skin stem cells offer potential new methods to reverse baldness and boost wound healing in burn victims and those suffering from other skin injuries, the researchers said.

The putative skin stem cells reproduce themselves seemingly indefinitely in the laboratory, the study found. When engrafted onto the backs of hairless mice, the cells also formed stretches of skin, tufts of hair, and sebaceous glands, which secrete an oily substance known as sebum that lubricates skin and hair.

"We've identified cells within skin that bear all the characteristics of true stem cells--the ability for self renewal and the multipotency required to differentiate into all lineages of epidermis and hair," said Elaine Fuchs, cell biologist at Rockefeller University and senior author of the study. "The results demonstrate for the first time that individual cells isolated from hair follicles can be cultured in the laboratory and retain a capacity to make multiple cell types when grafted."

The team's analysis of the versatile skin cells also offers new insights into the underlying genetic signature common to all stem cells, said the researchers.

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells whose daughters give rise to the specialized cell types that make up an organism. Embryonic stem cells, which emerge in the first days of an embryo's development, have the potential to differentiate, or specialize, into each of the 200 types of tissue in the body. In contrast, adult stem cells fou
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Contact: Heidi Hardman
hhardman@cell.com
617-397-2879
Cell Press
2-Sep-2004


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