by Steven Ertelt
July 13, 2006
Philadelphia, PA (LifeNews.com) — Human hair could be a new source of adult stem cells and provide another alternative to embryonic stem cell research. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have isolated a new source of adult stem cells that appear to have the potential to differentiate into several cell types.
If further study proves successful, the researchers say it could yield the tissue needed by an individual for treating a host of disorders, including peripheral nerve disease, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury.
"We are very excited about this new source of adult stem cells that has the potential for a variety of applications," says senior author Xiaowei (George) Xu, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology.
"A number of reports have pointed to the fact that adult stem cells may be more flexible in what they become than previously thought, so we decided to look in the hair follicle bulge, a niche for these cells," Xu explained.
Xu and colleagues report their findings in the latest issue of the American Journal of Pathology.
Human hair has yielded adult stem cells before, but using human embryonic stem cell culture conditions, the scientists were able to grow a new type of multipotent adult stem cell from scalp tissue.
After growing the new adult stem cells, they were able to coax them into turning into different types of cells needed for various treatment purposes.
"Although we are just at the start of this research, our findings suggest that human hair follicles may provide an accessible, individualized source of stem cells," says Xu.