Sagamihara, Japan -
Hair follicle stem cells have previously been demonstrated to possess various characteristics of other stem cells, including migration to SDF-1, thus potentially allowing intravenous injection. Also this stem cell population has been proposed, along with adipose stem cells, to have immune modulatory activities.
In a recent paper (Amoh et al. Human hair follicle pluripotent stem (hfPS) cells promote regeneration of peripheral-nerve injury: An advantageous alternative to ES and iPS cells. J Cell Biochem 2009 Jun 8) the ability of hair follicle derived stem cells to heal injured nerves was assessed.
Initially the scientists demonstrated that murine hair follicle derived stem cells are capable of differentiating into several cell types, especially cells with glial characteristics and neurons. The authors further showed that hair follicle stem cells derived from human scalp are lacking keratin 15, positive for nestin, and can differentiate ino melanocytes, smooth muscle cells, glial, keratinocytes, and of course neurons.
When the human hair follicle stem cells were administered into a sciatic nerve injury mouse model the cells were shown to accelerate nerve regeneration. The administered stem cells seemed to become Schwann cells based on expression of GFAP and were capable of increasing contraction of the calf muscle of the mouse.
These data suggest the interesting possibility that alongside fat derived stem cells, stem cells from the hair scalp may be another great source of autologous stem cells. The question, of course, is how to expand them in sufficient quantities? One way may be to add telomerase as performed in this paper, another is to add known growth factors that are stimulatory for hair follicle stem cells.