Scientists regrow mouse hair with stem cells: Toupee makers up in arms

Yale researchers reported yesterday that they have observed stem cells spurring growth in cell tissue, according to research published in the journal Nature. As with much of science, the experiments involved lab mice, but the research could have applications for humans, too.

Researchers used lab mice that do not have a cell (mesenchyme) that allows them to regrow hair. Mesenchyme is a type of stem cell that can differentiate into a variety of cell types, such as bone, cartilage and fat cells. An imaging technology called 2-photon intravital microscopy allowed researchers to observe the hair follicle as stem cells regenerated tissue. This research might one day prove useful in regrowing heart or lung tissue, for instance, according to Yale.

“This tells us a lot about how the tissue regeneration process works,” said Valentina Greco, assistant professor of genetics and of dermatology at the Yale Stem Cell Center, researcher for the Yale Cancer Center and senior author of the study. “Understanding how stem cell behavior is regulated by the microenvironment can advance our use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes and uncover mechanisms that go wrong in cancer and other diseases.”

While Yale and the rest of the scientific community is understandably excited about the achievement, some private businesses like Bosley Medical, Hair Club for Men, toupee-makers, will probably bristle at the news; unless, of course, they can get their hands on stem cells themselves. But the news from Yale will probably hearten those who suffer the indignity of bad wigs: John Travolta, Nicolas Cage and William Shatner (if he lives long enough to see science regrow his hair).

The study was funded by an Alexander Brown Coxe postdoctoral fellowship. This work was supported in part by the American Skin Association and the American Cancer Society and the Yale Rheumatologic Disease Research Core Center and the National Institutes of Health.