Skin and hair spring from the same stem cells, researchers find

Finding advances understanding of skin wounds and skin cancer

In a study that has implications for understanding the way skin wounds heal and some skin cancers develop, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center and New York University School of Medicine have found compelling evidence that the hair follicle and the epidermis may originate from the same cache of cells.

The researchers have traced the earliest daughters of the stem cells (primitive cells not yet committed to a specific developmental pattern) to the section of the upper follicle adjacent to the region where the stem cells reside.

The finding shows clearly for the first time how cells from the hair follicle can directly influence the epidermis.

"Our results suggest that in normal newborns, and in healing wounds throughout life, it is the daughter cells in the upper follicle that migrate upward to form and maintain the new epidermis. The daughter cells of the stem cells also migrate downward to form the hairshaft," said Robert M. Lavker, PhD., professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Lavker has been investigating stem cell systems for nearly 20 years in collaboration with Tung-Tien Sun, PhD, of the NYU School of Medicine. Their current work identifies the upper follicle as the site of young transient amplyfying (TA) cells -- which are the early offspring of stem cells -- and follows the TA cellsmigration into the epidermis and into the bulb, or root, of the hair where the TA cells differentiate into components of the hair shaft.

The current study, which will be published in the August 18 issue of Cell, builds on the 1990 research of Lavker and his coworkers, in which they located stem cells at the bulge of the follicle (the point where the outer root sheath attaches to the arrector pili muscle).

The new study furnishes evidence that these researchers were correct at the time when th

Contact: Ellen O'Brien
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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