Researchers Identify Signaling Protein Essential for Maintaining Hair Follicle Dermal Stem Cells

Researchers Identify Signaling Protein Essential for Maintaining Hair Follicle Dermal Stem Cells

A team of University of Calgary researchers claim they are the first to discover signals that influence dermal stem cell function, opening up new areas for research into the treatment of hair loss.

The researchers identified an important signaling protein essential for self-renewal and growth of dermal stem cells inside hair follicles. Stem cells are essential for continuous regeneration of hair follicles and the growth of new hair.

A study by Rahmani et al has shown that hair follicle dermal stem cells regenerate the dermal sheath and repopulate the dermal papilla. The dermal papilla is essential for regeneration of the hair follicle, with alopecia often associated with cell death in the dermal papilla. The research showed that genetic depletion of hair follicle dermal sheath stem cells (hfDSCs) impairs hair growth.

The University of Calgary researchers have identified a protein – called platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) – that is essential for maintaining a healthy population of stem cells in the skin. Without a large population of stem cells in the skin, hair will no longer grow and wounds will take much longer to heal.

The researchers discovered that without PDGF, stem cell pools start to shrink. If the population of stem cells continues to decline, hair will no longer grow.

The authors said, “Identifying the signaling pathways that govern self-renewal and fate choice of hfDSCs will be critical towards understanding their role in pathogenesis of skin disorders such as alopecia and/or development of cellular therapies to regenerate dermal tissue following severe skin injury.”

Jeff Biernaskie, associate professor in comparative biology and experimental medicine at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the paper said, “It’s an important start in terms of how we might modulate these cells towards developing future therapies that could regenerate new dermal tissue or maintain hair growth.”

The research team is now investigating how PDGF stimulates stem cells and their role in wound healing and skin regeneration.

The study – Platelet-derived growth factor signaling modulates adult hair follicle dermal stem cell maintenance and self-renewal – has recently been published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine.

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