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January 10, 2023

Why We Bank the Hair Follicle

The hair follicle is valuable source of cells which can be used in regenerative medicine like the creation of 3D tissue grafts for wound healing, rejuvenating aged skin, or creating neurons. The therapeutic potential is becoming incrementally clear to researchers. Learn more about why we bank the hair follicle here.

Why we bank the hair follicle:

The average person has roughly 100,000 hair follicles. They can be easily accessed painlessly and non-invasively, making it an ideal cell source for regenerative medicine. 

The hair follicle is also a replenishing cell source, regrowing even after the plucking process. Scientists observed that even in people experiencing balding, the areas with hair growth produce hair follicles that are still intact and viable, further making the hair follicle a strong source for cell banking.

The follicle has a diverse cell population of cells that have the ability to help rejuvenate skin, regrow hair, repair tissues and even be leveraged in stem cell applications.

What cells and growth factors are found in the hair follicle: 

The hair follicle is a tiny organ that consists of hundreds of different interacting cell types, including versatile stem cells and primary skin cells such as keratinocytes, deep tissue fibroblasts, and follicle stem cells. 

Follicle stem cells (hFSCs/MSCs) are progenitor cells that still have the ability to be turned into a wide variety of cells in your body. 

Keratinocytes are primary cells that produce the surface level of your skin. They are responsible for providing structure to skin and play a key role in the immune system. They orchestrate the wound repair process by migrating to the wounded area, proliferating and differentiating to restore the epidermis back to its original healthy state. (Source)

Deep tissue fibroblasts are sub-dermal tissue layer cells and they play a role in producing collagen and elastin. These cells are also responsible for producing growth factors to maintain the structural integrity of the skin. (Source)

Studies using the hair follicle: 

Research has shown that the cell types stored with Acorn have the potential to help improve the appearance of the skin and promote hair regrowth through the use of regenerative cell treatments. Reintroducing younger cells also has the potential to not only replenish what we lose with age, like hair and collagen, but has been shown to influence the surrounding cells to behave younger.

As for applications, clinical trials indicate that these regenerative therapies will be applied in similar ways to current aesthetic uses, with topical serums and injectables, as well as the potential for implants and grafts.

For wrinkles

Researchers developed an autologous cell therapy from a type of fibroblast cell found in the hair follicle called non-bulbar dermal sheath cells. They isolated these cells from the follicle, cultured them to provide a sufficient supply, and then reintroduced them into problem areas. Once reintroduced, there was an increase in the expression of genes that drive collagen synthesis leading to wrinkle reduction 

Hair follicle stem cells repair chronic spinal cord injury.

Chronic spinal cord injury is a debilitating disease with limited treatment options. However, researchers recently uncovered that hair follicle stem cells could functionally repair spinal cord injury. The researchers also found that hair follicle stem cells may be better for spinal cord regeneration in comparison to other stem cells. Read more here. 

Reversing liver cirrhosis with hair follicle stem cells.

Liver cirrhosis occurs in the late stage of liver scarring and is caused by diseases such as hepatitis or chronic alcoholism. Researchers recently developed a potential treatment using hair follicle derived mesenchymal stem cells. They found that they were able to improve liver function and resolve the scaring by injecting hair follicle stem cells in their animal model. Read more here.

Turing hair follicle stem cells into beating cardiomyocyte sheets

Researchers from Japan took hair follicle associated pluripotent stem cells and differentiated them into mature beating cardiomyocytes sheets. These sheets have clinical potential for heart regeneration in the future.

Acorn Biolabs