Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and the New Jersey Institute of Technology have found way to convert adult human stem cells into epithelial stem cells (EpSCs). The technique developed may bring forward wound healing, cosmetics, and hair regeneration.
The researchers added three genes to human dermal fibroblasts—skin cells that live in the dermis layerand generate connective tissue— and converted them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The latter have the ability to produce any cell type, and the scientists converted them into epithelial stem cells (EpSCs) that are normally found in hair follicles.
The researchers then added growth factors to the cells and in 18 days 25 percent of the iPSCs turned into EpSCs. They then mixed mouse follicular inductive dermal cells with these EpSCs and grafted them onto the skin of immunodeficient mice. As a result of these manipulations, human epidermis and follicles similar to hair follicles were produced in mice.
This is the first time the epithelial component of hair follicles was generated, and this happened since the researchers were able to produce the scalable amounts of epithelial stem cells.
However, it may take another decade or so to develop the stem cell based cure for baldness, because, having addressed one underlying cause for baldness – loss of epithelial cells in hair follicle, the researchers have to find solution to another one – loss of adult stem cells called dermal papillae.