Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine developed a method to grow hairy skin from mouse pluripotent stem cells, according to a new study published in Science Daily on January 8, 2018.
This discovery has the potential to create new approaches to model diseases and new therapies for the treatment of skin disorders and skin-related cancers. This research marks the first demonstration of the possibility of growing hair follicles in cultures of stem cells.
“The skin is a complex organ that has been difficult to fully recreate and maintain in culture for research purposes. Our study shows how to encourage hair development from lab grown mouse skin, which has been particularly troublesome for researchers to recreate in culture.” said Dr. Koehle, lead author of the study.
“In the developing embryo, the inner ear comes from the same layer of cells as the top layer of the skin, [the epidermis], so it was no surprise that skin and inner ear tissue formed in tandem,” Dr. Koehler said. “We were surprised to find that the bottom layer of the skin [the dermis]also develops.”
The team identified culture conditions that allowed skin organoids to proceed through the stages of development much like skin in the embryo.
After about 20 days, the scientists were amazed to see that skin organoids sprouted hair follicles. “The roots of the follicles protrude from the skin organoids in all directions.
“In addition to the major epidermal and dermal cell types we also found specialized cell types, such as melanocytes [pigment cells], Merkel cells [touch sensing cells], adipocytes [fat cells], sebaceous gland cells, and hair follicle stem cells in organoids,” Dr. Koehler said. “This is fascinating because it shows that if we derive the basic building blocks of skin together in culture, then these diverse cell types will self-assemble on their own.”
Dr. Lee, first author on the study, said these findings serve as a blueprint for how to make from scratch the entire skin organ using stem cells. “My hope is that by improving skin-in-a-dish models we can greatly diminish the sacrifice of experimental animals and ultimately help patients with skin-related issues live a better life,” Dr. Lee said.
“The shape of skin organoids is another problem that needs to be addressed in the future,” he said. “Because the organoids are inside-out compared to normal skin, the layers of dead cells and hairs cannot be shed as they are normally, so we need to find a way to flip the structure of skin organoids.”
The skin organoids have a shelf life of around a month, said the researchers, and this period of time is enough to study the complete development of mouse skin and hair.
Regenerative artificial skin is usually used as a substitute to damaged skin or for prosthetics, as reported by Regenerative Artificial Skin Market report published by Coherent Market Insights. This new discovery, will however, help create better means of therapy for damaged skin.