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Scientists Create Hair

Bearing Human Skin from Pluripotent Stem Cells

A team of researchers from several U.S. institutions has created an organoid culture system that generates complex skin from human pluripotent stem cells.

A hair-bearing skin organoid. Image credit: Indiana University School of Medicine.

A hair-bearing skin organoid. Image credit: Indiana University School of Medicine.

“This is the first study to show that human hair can be grown completely from stem cells in a dish, which has been a goal of the skin biology community for decades,” said lead author Dr. Karl Koehler, from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Through the 3D culture technique developed in past studies, Dr. Koehler and colleagues incubated human stem cells for about 150 days in a skin organoid.

“We’ve developed a new cooking recipe for generating human skin that produces hair follicles after about 70 days in culture,” Dr. Koehler explained.

“When the hair follicles grow, the roots extend outward radially. It’s a bizarre-looking structure, appearing almost like a deep-sea creature with tentacles coming out from it.”

“After the incubation period, researchers tested whether skin organoids could integrate on the skin of nude mice. More than half of the organoids they grafted on the mice grew human hair follicles.”

“The skin organoid developed from culture is akin to fetal facial skin and hair,” he said.

The team’s experiments show that organoid generated hairy skin can integrate into mouse skin, which suggests potential applications in skin and facial reconstruction.

“This could be a huge innovation, providing a potentially unlimited source of soft tissue and hair follicles for reconstructive surgeries,” said first author Dr. Jiyoon Lee, also from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital.

“Skin regeneration is of great interest for treating patients,” added co-author Dr. Taha Shipchandler, from the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“If we can harness this growth into a medium, and easily apply it to patients, it would change the way we treat many injuries or reconstructions. This would have a profound effect on the medical field.”

The results were published in the journal Nature.


J. Lee et al. Hair-bearing human skin generated entirely from pluripotent stem cells. Nature, published online June 3, 2020; doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2352-3

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