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Stem Cells Found in Hair Follicles

Researchers say they could be used to treat burn wounds, skin injuries

THURSDAY, Sept. 2, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Cells in the hair follicles of the skin appear to be stem cells that may offer potential new ways to treat burn wounds and other skin injuries, as well as hair loss.

That's the promising conclusion of a study in the Sept. 3 issue of Cell.

Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Rockefeller University in New York City found these cells exhibit all the defining features of true stem cells. In laboratory tests, the cells were able to reproduce seemingly indefinitely.

When the cells were grafted onto the backs of hairless mice, the cells formed stretches of skin and tufts of hair. The cells also formed sebaceous glands, which secret sebum, an oily substance that lubricates skin and hair.

"We've identified cells within the skin that bear all the characteristics of true stem cells -- the ability for self renewal and the multipotency required to differentiate into all lineages of epidermis and hair," cell biologist and senior author Elaine Fuchs said in a prepared statement.

"The results demonstrate for the first time that individual cells isolated from hair follicles can be cultured in the laboratory and retain a capacity to make multiple cell types when grafted," Fuchs said.

More information

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

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Sept. 2, 2004
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