Researchers Find New Source of Adult Stem Cells From Hair

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 29
, 2005

San Diego, CA ( — Adding to the growing number of sources for ethical stem cells, researchers have found a new location to obtain adult stem cells for use in scientific research: hair. The scientists recently published information showing stem cells found in hair follicles can be useful in medical treatments.

The researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an American journal.

In the article the researchers wrote that stem cells obtained from the follicles of mouse whiskers developed into neurons and other neural cells, skin cells, smooth muscle cells, and pigment producing cells.

Robert Hoffman, of the American medical research company AntiCancer Inc., worked with researchers at the University of California San Diego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to make the discovery.

"’We had previously found that the stem cells that make the hair follicles have similar features to stem cells that make the brain," Hoffman said.

He said it could be possible to take the hair stem cells and grow a tissue transplant form them.

If so, that’s further good news for pro-life groups because they oppose embryonic stem cell research that involves destroying unborn children in their earliest days to obtain their stem cells.

Hoffman agreed the potential for another adult stem cell source helps alleviate ethical concerns associated with embryonic stem cell research.

"’You don’t have any political problems, either, like you would using embryonic stem cells," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said obtaining adult stem cells from hair is much easier than getting them from bone marrow or some other potential sources.

This is the second time researchers have discovered stem cells could come from hair.

In September, a team located at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and New York’s Rockefeller University found stem cells from hair that grew hair, skin and sweat glands.

Comments on the developments, Robin Lovell-Badge, head of the division of developmental genetics at the England National Institute for Medical Research, told the BBC, "It’s definitely a source of cells that needs to be explored. We want to find the best source of cells possible."