Researchers in Japan have bioengineered human hair follicle stem cells that were able to grow hair on the backs of mice.
The research results were published April 17 in the British scientific journal Nature Communications.
Scientists hope the bioengineering technique could potentially help develop new cures for human hair loss.
A team of researchers led by Takashi Tsuji, a professor of regenerative medicine at the Tokyo University of Science, isolated two types of cells--epithelial stem cells and dermal papilla cells--from mouse vibrissa (specialized hair, usually whiskers in most mammal species) follicles and cultured them to engineer follicle germ cells.
After the follicle stem cells were transplanted onto the back skin of mice, hair began to sprout in about three weeks, with a probability of 74 percent.
The engineered vibrissae grew to a length of 1 centimeter, like their natural counterparts, in about 10 more days. They later molted and were replaced by new vibrissae.
An analysis of their response to stimuli and protein distribution showed that the vibrissae were connected to nerve fibers and muscles that surrounded them.
The regeneration method, which was successful with vibrassae, also worked for pelage (mammalian fur).
The researchers found that hair density could be regulated by using different numbers of cells during the transplant.
When human hair follicle stem cells were engineered and transplanted on mouse skin, human hair grew out of them.
The researchers said that application of the method for hair loss therapy would require the development of technology to multiply follicle-derived cells.
"We hope to start clinical research within the coming three to five years and come up with a therapy available to the public in about 10 years," said a member of the research team.
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