tooth cells induce hair follicles to grow
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Tooth cells induce hair follicles to grow

Stem cell research has become a cutting edge phenomena in modern science. Stem cells have been found to produce miraculous effects toward the regeneration of certain biological parts of the body. This promises many great things for the future.

One such area of the body that has been extensively researched are the teeth and hair in both animals and humans. Scientists have recently discovered that Mesenchymal stem cells in both tooth and hair follicles can be interchanged between humans and animals to produce positive effects in either of the transplanted areas. An example of this was recently shown to be the case when both animal and human tooth cells were first transferred into hair follicles. This was done to see if they could help the growth of human hair. The results were extremely interesting. It was discovered that the transplantation of stem cells from both human and animal teeth helped to stimulate healthier hair growth in humans. Some of the tests were not as successful as others. The results depended a lot upon the age of the donor and upon other environmental factors. However, the overall results proved that there is great hope for this type of treatment in hair growth somewhere down the road.

Although teeth and hair follicles are extremely different items on both the animal and human body, they actually have a lot of similarities on the cellular level. Both teeth and hair are built from very similar stem cells that merely group together in different ways to eventually create the larger tooth or hair follicle formations. The early stages of growth of these larger formations, which depends upon the activity of stem cells, tends to be very similar.

Specifically, what happens when teeth and hair begin to form is that the stem cells group together underneath the surface of other, larger concentrations of cell growth. The process of this gathering of cells is guided by certain governing cells called " papilla cells" in hair follicle formation the cells are called “dermal papilla” cells and in teeth they are called “dental papilla” (or pulp) cells. These papilla cells are very versatile governors because they can travel to entirely different "regions" of tissue and govern the growth of cells in the foreign area just as they do in their own region. Of course, there are some exceptions to the rule and certain environmental characteristics often come into play. Nevertheless, there is great promise for these dermal papilla cells as scientists are just beginning to discover.

One particular procedure that scientists investigated took place in an experiment involving whisker follicles. Scientists found that, when a section just larger than one third the length of any whisker follicle was removed, the remaining upper section of the whisker follicle would become completely inactive and no more hair growth would take place. The whisker that was cut off from the bottom became essentially dead. Scientists took these dead whiskers and were able to re-activate them by simply adding dermal papilla cells to the upper "dead" follicle. The amazing thing was that this didn't just work when transplanting hair cells into whiskers, this proved to be true when scientists transplanted tooth papilla cells as well! Furthermore, this result was duplicated in both animal and human whiskers that received the transplants and was also duplicated when both animals and humans acted as the donors! The results, all around, had at least some sort of positive effect.

The method by which these papilla cells were transferred into the hair follicles was very interesting. It involved widening the central canal of the hair follicle in order to allow for a deposit of cells to be placed into the hair follicle itself. To do this, scientists used fine tipped watchmaker forceps with papilla cells packed inside! These scientists are very resourceful when they want to be!

The scientists tried several different types of cells from different rats as donors for their experiments. When they transplanted these rat cells into the hair follicles, they found that the specific papilla cells from the incisor teeth seemed to produce the best results. They also found that 3 week old rats did the best as cell donors rather than older rats. Newborn rats also did well, but were not as successful as, specifically, the three week old rat donors.

In all the cases of transplantation from rat donors, scientists found one problem with the hair formation that resulted. The papilla cells from animal teeth gave the unfortunate result of producing small bone formations or tooth fragments in the hair follicles where they were transplanted to. There had indeed been hair formation due to the transplants of cells but the bone formations also grew inside the hair follicles and that was obviously less than ideal.

When transplanting dental papilla cells from adult human teeth, scientists had somewhat better results. For this experiment, they chose two adult human donors. The first donor was a 22 year old female and the second donor was a 34 year old female. After the tooth cells were transplanted from the 22 year old donor into the whisker follicles, scientists found that 3 out of 4 of the follicle portions that had undergone transplants showed strong hair production. The results were even better with the transplants from the 34 year old donor. When those stem cells were transplanted into the hair follicles, all of the follicle portions from that donor showed strong hair production.

In terms of the age of the human tooth cell donors, it was found that younger adult donors were not always the best choice for transplantation methods. Although the younger human donor did not produce the unfortunate result of bone formations in the transplanted hair follicles that rat donors produced, the hair formations were still not as good as they were from the 34 year old adult human. Scientists found that it was best to stick with older adult human donors when transplanting tooth cells into hair follicles.

In addition to the problems derived from transplanting animal stem cells into human hair, dermal papilla cells also didn't do as well going in the opposite direction from hair into teeth. This seems self-evident, that you can't make teeth out of hair, and yet scientists were sure to confirm what, to the rest of the world may have already seemed like common sense! Scientists found that when the papilla cells were transplanted from hair into teeth there were obvious problems. The hair cells did not help to produce the necessary dentine or the enamel that normal tooth cells usually govern. For scientists, it was "back to the drawing board"!

The production of bone formations in hair follicles had seemed an unfortunate blow to the growth of healthy human hair. The lack of dentine and enamel similarly did not fair well for the growth potential of teeth. Still, The success of transplanting human stem cells from teeth to hair had been more successful.

Even with the success of transplanting human stem cells from teeth into hair, there were still some problems in terms of the applicability of the experiments to male pattern baldness in the mainstream market. The experiments involved alot of extenuating environmental conditions that simply were not practical for male pattern baldness patients. Still, scientists have not been discouraged.

Scientists have gone on to suppose that the discovery of bone formations in hair follicles could still be seen in a positive light as it may be applied to future dental research. Although the hair specialists may not appreciate it, the tooth specialists just might! Scientists are now looking in new directions toward the prospect that stem cells may still provide certain prospects for the growth of both healthy hair and healthy teeth. The search goes on.

Regardless of the mild success that they have had with human hair growth, scientists still do not envisage a solution to male pattern baldness just yet. They will continue to research stem cells in the future and hopefully find new avenues in which their discoveries can be applied. Stem cell research is truly making headway as the cutting edge of scientific discovery. Hopefully, the future will hopefully bring even better news.


Tooth cells induce hair follicles to grow references

  • Reynolds AJ, Jahoda CA. Cultured human and rat tooth papilla cells induce hair follicle regeneration and fiber growth. Differentiation. 2004 Dec;72(9-10):566-75. PMID: 15617567
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