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U-M scientists trigger new hair growth in mice

ANN ARBOR, MI University of Michigan graduate student David Van Mater knew something strange was going on when he noticed stubble on the shaved skin of experimental mice in his laboratory. Instead of the tumors he had originally expected to see, the mice were growing hair.

Van Mater had stumbled on the discovery that beta-catenin (bay-tuh-kuh-TEEN-in), a signaling protein involved in embryonic development and several types of cancer, also triggers changes in adult mouse hair follicles that lead to the growth of new hair.

The discovery by Van Mater and U-M scientists Frank T. Kolligs, M.D., Andrzej A. Dlugosz, M.D., and Eric R., Fearon, M.D., Ph.D., will be published in the May 15 issue of Genes & Development.

Other researchers have shown that beta-catenin and other genes in the Wnt (wint) pathway are important for normal development of hair follicles in embryos and after birth, says Dlugosz, an associate professor of dermatology in the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. Whats new about our study is the finding that a brief activation of beta-catenin in resting hair follicles could be enough to trigger the complex series of changes it takes to produce a normal hair.

The original purpose of the research study was to learn how the Wnt signaling pathway and beta-catenin are connected to cancer development, according to Fearon, the Emanual N. Maisel Professor of Oncology in the U-M Cancer Center. Beta-catenin carries signals from growth factors called Wnts to the cells nucleus, Fearon says. If beta-catenin expression in the cell isnt adequately controlled and regulated, it changes normal patterns of gene expression. This can lead to several types of cancer, especially colon cancer.

The study used genetically altered mice developed in the U-M Transgenic Animal Model Core. By adding a packaged set of genes called a construct to fertilized mouse eggs, U-M researchers created a new strain of transgenic mice with an inducible form of bet
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
14-May-2003


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