hair follicle bulge stem cells
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Hair follicle bulge stem cells

Scientists have been researching hair follicles to try and understand what causes hair loss. They have determined that the cause of hair loss is determined by what are called the "stem cells". These stem cells reside in the hair follicles in an area known as "the bulge". Because these stem cells live in the area known as the bulge, they are also commonly referred to as "bulge cells".

In order to better understand the genetics behind "bulge cells", scientists introduced something called "promoters" into their research. The promoters were combined with the bulge cells in order to create certain prevailing conditions. In fact, the promoters were designed to isolate the bulge cells so that they could be more easily analyzed by the scientists. Without their being isolated, scientists couldn't even determine what the bulge cells were. They also couldn't determine what kind of treatments the bulge cells might respond to. Once the scientists had these bulge cells in a position where they could view them and analyze them, they were better able to consider whatever possible treatments might be available.

The three promoters that were introduced into the bulge cells for the purpose of isolating and analyzing them were Keratin 15 or "K15", Enhanced Green Florescent Protein or "EGFP" and Cre Recombinase and Progersterone Receptor or "CrePR1". These three promoters made it easier for scientists to separate the specific bulge cells that they wanted to analyze and then to consider further treatment for these cells. These three promoters brought them to the first phase of the discovery for the treatment of hair loss.

Through the use of the three different promoters, K15, EGFP and CrePR1, it was discovered that bulge cells were actually made up of all of the basic cell types in the internal membranous tissue of the body. The same tissue that exists as a membrane around your internal organs such as liver, pancreas, etc. also exists in bulge cells at the base of your hair follicles! This was good news for scientists because it meant that bulge cells could possibly provide the necessary building blocks for healthier hair. If they had not been producing the right kind of hair at a specific time, at least they still had the potential to do so in the future. All the scientists needed was to find out was how to make these bulge cells reproduce the necessary cells for healthy hair. With the bulge cells isolated and properly analyzed, they were ready to try out a treatment.

Scientists went on to test a treatment on the isolated bulge cells with something called "RU486". RU486, in combination with the previously mentioned "promoters" brought about a huge array of new discoveries. Scientists discovered a long list of gene types in the bulge cells that responded positively to the RU486 drug. In fact, these gene types were responding so positively, that scientists thought they might now be capable of contributing to the actual regeneration of hair follicles themselves. Scientists could now target these gene types and eventually see further means for promoting more and more hair growth.

The list of gene types and the subsequent prospects that they promised toward healthy hair growth were extremely numerous. In fact, there were 157 genes that were shown to be present in the stem cells and almost half of these seemed to respond quite favorably to the RU486 treatment.

Of course, in terms of stem cell research, there is still a considerable way to go before scientists can determine the exact treatments that will be necessary for promoting this new genetic response in stem cells. Still, one of the main hurdles has certainly been overcome with the discovery of RU486 and its effects on bulge cells. RU486, in combination with the three promoters, K15, EGFP and CrePR1 have all brought about a great prospect for the future of hair follicle treatment. At least in terms of a hopeful tomorrow, genetic research is looking extremely bright.


Hair follicle bulge stem cells references

  • Morris RJ, Liu Y, Marles L, Yang Z, Trempus C, Li S, Lin JS, Sawicki JA, Cotsarelis G. Capturing and profiling adult hair follicle stem cells. Nat Biotechnol. 2004 Apr;22(4):411-7. PMID: 15024388
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