Researchers have used stem cells from mice to develop a skin patch that is complete with hair follicles in a laboratory, raising the hope to find a potential cure for baldness.
Using the skin model, the scientists developed both the epidermis (upper) and dermis (lower) layers of skin, which grow together in a process that allows hair follicles to form the same way as they would in a mouse’s body.
The novel skin tissue more closely resembles natural hair than existing models and may prove useful for testing drugs, understanding hair growth, and reducing the practice of animal testing, the researchers said.
“You can see the organoids with your naked eye,” said Karl Koehler, assistant professor at the Indiana University.
“It looks like a little ball of pocket lint that floats around in the culture medium. The skin develops as a spherical cyst, and then the hair follicles grow outward in all directions, like dandelion seeds.”
In the study, published in Cell Reports, Koehler and team originally began using pluripotent stem cells from mice, which can develop into any type of cells in the body, to create organoids — miniature organs in vitro — that model the inner ear.
But they discovered that they were generating skin cells in addition to inner ear tissue. Thus, they decided to coax the cells into sprouting hair follicles.
Moreover, they found that mouse skin organoid technique could be used as a blueprint to generate human skin organoids.
“It could be potentially a superior model for testing drugs, or looking at things like the development of skin cancers, within an environment that’s more representative of the in vivo microenvironment,” Koehler noted.