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Skin stem cells give hairless mice hair

r those questions, Fuchs and her colleagues first isolated stem cells from the bulge by fusing antibodies to characteristic cell surface molecules.

"An important aspect of this paper was that we found we could isolate and characterize these cells by taking advantage of the cell-surface markers that we had previously identified from molecular profiling experiments," said Fuchs. "We can now utilize similar methods to begin to compare mouse and human skin stem cells."

The scientists' analyses of the biochemical characteristics of the isolated mouse stem cells revealed that the bulge contained two distinct populations of stem cells. One type, called "basal" cells, is active during early development. In contrast the "suprabasal" cells appear only after the first hair generation cycle. This distinction offers biologists an opportunity to compare the two groups of cells, in terms of the control that the bulge exerts over their proliferation and differentiation.

Despite the fact that the stem cells expressed many different genes, both populations were capable of self-renewal when grown in culture, said Fuchs. The researchers also found that both types of cells -- even after being cultured -- produced hair follicles when grafted onto the skin of a strain of hairless mice.

"I think clinicians will be interested in the fact that both of these populations can produce hair follicles after culture," said Fuchs. "Previously, researchers have done similar transplant experiments with dissected parts of the hair follicle. And, while they've had evidence that hair follicle structures were forming, they didn't see generation of hair.

"In contrast, in our experiments, we saw quite a density of hairs, in some cases at a density that's very similar to that of normal mouse fur," said Fuchs. "While we are not yet able to achieve such density a hundred percent of the time, the fact that we do get such density in some cases tells us that the system is working wel
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Contact: Jennifer Michalowski
michalow@hhmi.org
301-215-8576
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
2-Sep-2004


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