Using a sophisticated imaging technique, researchers also demonstrated that mice lacking a certain type of cell do not regrow hair. The same technique could shed light on how stem cells interact with other cells and trigger repairs in a variety of other organs, including lung and heart tissue.
“This tells us a lot about how the tissue regeneration process works,” said Valentina Greco, assistant professor of genetics and of dermatology at the Yale Stem Cell Center.
Greco and her team focused on stem cell behavior in the hair follicle of the mouse. The accessibility of the hair follicle allowed real-time and non-invasive imaging through a technology called 2-photon intravital microscopy.
The technology allowed the team to discover that hair growth in mice cannot take place in the absence of connective tissue called mesenchyme, which appears early in embryonic development.
Stem cells not only spur growth of hair in mammals including humans, but also can serve to regenerate many other types of tissues.
“Understanding how stem cell behavior is regulated by the microenvironment can advance our use of stem cells for therapeutic purposes and uncover mechanisms that go wrong in cancer and other diseases,” Greco said.
Adapted from the Yale University announcement.