Scientists have been able to grow mouse skin tissue, including hair follicles, from mouse pluripotent stem cells, and the skin more closely resembles mouse skin than lab-grown tissues from a variety of cell types. Authors Jiyoon Lee, Ph.D. and Karl Koehler, Ph.D. recently reported their findings in a paper in Cell Reports.
"It could be potentially a superior model for testing drugs, or looking at things like the development of skin cancers, within an environment that’s more representative of the in vivo microenvironment,“ Dr. Koehler told Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.
Hair follicles are created by the interaction between the two types of skin layers, the epidermis and dermis. While cultured skin can be created by having pluripotent skin cells in separate cultures and combining them to make a type of skin, this skin only contains five or six of the twenty types of skin cells that make up skin on the body. The only process known to create hair follicles is by the use of embryonic stem cells.
A previous team of Dr. Koehler's created a 3D mouse stem cell culture to create models of the inner ear. In the midst of their work, they discovered that the process also created skin cells. The study took the mouse pluripotent stem cells and grew them in the same 3D culture.
According to the researchers, the newly grown skin is made of three or four types of dermal cells and four types of epidermal cells. Hair follicles grown in the cultured skin contain all of the primary elements of natural hair follicles. The skin also develops in a very similar manner to embryonic skin cells.
“…the mouse skin organoids produced in our culture system recapitulate key features of skin differentiation on a timescale that roughly correlates with normal embryonic development,” the study reported.
With the new method, the epidermal cells in the culture medium first grow into the round-shape cysts. The dermal cells then wrap themselves around the cysts.
According to the team who worked on the study, their results show a better way to grow skin from pluripotent stem cells and can provide a culture that supports the growth of hair follicles over time. It will also provide the opportunity to study the skin growth and hair regeneration.
“We anticipate that this culture system will be useful for studying minimal cellular and microenvironment requirements for HF induction, evaluating HF growth/inhibitory drugs, or modeling skin diseases,” according to the research team.