It seems that for researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, no day is a bad hair day.
In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers at the university reported being able to grow hair follicles in cultures of mice stem cells. Because stem cells can develop into different kinds of cells, they can be used to make tissue similar to organs, called organoids.
After finding the correct environment for the culture dish where the cells were grown, researchers saw roots of hair follicles sprout in all directions from the skin organoids. The researchers said the findings could serve as a blueprint for using stem cells to make the entire skin organ from scratch.
The results of the study also could lead to new techniques for skin restructuring or therapies for diseases like alopecia, acne or skin cancer. And if skin organoids can be developed from human stem cells rather than animal stem cells, the number of animals used for research could be reduced, which could lower costs and help address concerns about animal welfare.
To reach its full potential as a tool for discovery, however, the skin organoid model needs to continue to be fine-tuned. The organoids are missing elements of normal skin, like blood vessels and nerve endings. Also, the structure itself needs to be flipped, as the organoids, compared with normal skin, are inside-out. Without these changes, the organoids remain effective for about a month, which one researcher said is just the right amount of time to study the development of the skin and hair.
But for these scientists, at least, a little hair will go a long way.