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Adult Stem Cells Found in Hair Follicles

Researchers say finding means patients could be their own donors

FRIDAY, Dec. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Adult stem cells found in the bulge of hair follicles may provide an alternative to embryonic stem cells, say researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Like embryonic stem cells, these epidermal neural crest stem cells have a high degree of plasticity, can be isolated at high levels of purity, and can be expanded in culture, the researchers said.

And, similar to other types of adult stem cells, the epidermal neural crest stem cells can be harvested through a minimally invasive procedure. This means that it may be possible to use a patient's own hair as source for stem cell therapy.

The researchers tested the epidermal neural crest stem cells in mice and achieved promising results.

"We grafted the cells into mice that have spinal cord injuries and were encouraged by the results. The cells survived and integrated into the spinal cord, remaining at the site of transplantation and not forming tumors," lead researcher Maya Sieber-Blum, a professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, said in a prepared statement.

The findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Stem Cells: The International Journal of Cell Differentiation and Proliferation.

These types of cells may prove useful in treating a number of conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

"We see the potential for cell-replacement therapy in which patients can be their own donors, which would avoid ethical issues [associated with embryonic stem cells] and reduce the possibility of tissue incompatibility," Sieber-Blum said.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, Dec. 5, 2006
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