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Rockefeller scientists identify 'natural' proteins that push stem cells to produce hair, not skin

efore joining Rockefeller University in 2002, Fuchs and her research team created an extraordinarily hairy mouse by altering its genes to grow hair follicles out of skin. The hairy mouse demonstrated that the researchers had identified elements of the molecular pathway that leads to hair follicle growth.

The latest study, at Rockefeller University, identifies the external signals that are naturally present in developing skin and that stimulate the production of hair follicles.

Additionally, on a basic science level, the study provides further support to the idea that cell parts known as adherens junctions, once thought useful only as the glue that holds cells of a tissue together actually play an important role in controlling when certain genes are turned on or off, thus transforming the essential nature of the cell.

The study also describes in detail how external protein growth factors produced outside of the stem cells work to activate genetic changes within the cells that prompt hair follicle formation.

"Before this, we didn't know how multiple growth factors collaborated to cause changes within the cell," says the first author, Colin Jamora, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Fuchs lab. "Now we know how two of the known ones target a specific gene to change the cell's function."

In the beginning

In a developing mouse embryo, a sheet of tightly adhering epithelial stem cells form on the body surface. Beginning at embryonic day 13, some of these stem cells receive "growth signals" that tell them to unlink from neighboring stem cells and move downward to form a pocket that will become a hair follicle. Surrounding cells that don't receive these messages continue to develop into the skin cells that form the epidermis, the body's waterproof outer coat. While stem cells at the body surface are forming either skin epidermis or hair, other stem cells in the embryo are differentiating in a similar way, migrati
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Contact: Joseph Bonner
bonnerj@mail.rockefeller.edu
212-327-8998
Rockefeller University
19-Mar-2003


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