Sanford-Burnham's hair-raising study

Posted: January 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Hair growing from human dermal papillae cells, which were cultivated from pluripotent stem cells.

Cells needed to grow hair have been produced from human stem cells, according to a study led by scientists at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla. The first-time feat could uncork a bottleneck in developing hair-replacement therapies, the scientists say.

Called the dermal papillae, these cells regulate hair follicle formation and growth cycles. They rapidly lose their hair-generating ability after being grown outside the body, limiting their use for hair regrowth. Another cell type derived from stem cells effectively substitutes for the dermal papillae, the scientists found.

These artificial dermal papillae cells were grown from pluripotent stem cells, which can be derived either from human embryos or a patient's own skin cells. The latter, called induced pluripotent stem cells, are of the most interest, said lead researcher Alexey V. Terskikh. Patients can donate their own IPS cells, which can be grown into the replacement dermal papillae in "unlimited" quantities," he said.

Alexey V. Terskikh, Principal Investigator, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute / Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham is now looking for business partners to commercialize the discovery. More information can be found at:

The study was published last week in the journal PLOS One. Terskikh is the study's senior author. Ksenia Gnedeva is first author.

In the lab, the human embryonic stem cells were first turned into neural crest cells, which produce brain cells, cartilage, bone, pigment and muscle cells. The cells were then converted into the artificial dermal papillae cells. These human cells induced hair formation, when transplanted along with mouse skin epidermal cells into immune-deficient and nearly hairless "nude mice".

Because nude mice were created from albino ancestors, the transplanted skin cells were chosen from dark-haired mice. This let the scientists distinguish hairs grown by the mice from cells grown by the transplanted cells.

Transplanted epidermal cells alone caused "minimal" growth, the study said.

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Sanford-Burnham's hair-raising study

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