Hair-like constructs offer drug screening platform
Laboratory-grown structures akin to hair follicles could aid the search for novel drugs to treat baldness and other hair disorders
Story content courtesy of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Scientists from A*STAR have successfully engineered cellular structures resembling hair follicles in the laboratory1 — a tool that can now be used to develop new therapies to promote or decrease hair growth.
“The follicle-like structures of our model form the basis of a promising assay for screening hair drugs,” says study author Andrew Wan, a team leader and principal research scientist at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore.
The researchers characterized the gene expression profile of the DP cells in this three-dimensional architecture. They found increased levels for those genes involved in hair-associated interactions with the keratinocytes. In addition, they tested the hair inductive potential of the lab-grown follicles by implanting four-day-old cell structures below the skin of mice. Under the microscope, they could see hair follicle-like growths forming around three to four weeks later.
Having demonstrated the hair follicle-like nature of the assemblages, Wan and Ying’s group next investigated the suitability of these cell constructs for testing hair drugs. As a proof of principle, they added drugs with known effects on hair growth — the promoter hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) or the inhibitor transforming growth factor-β2 (TGF-β2).
Based on the consistency of their results with drugs of known effects, Ying suggests that the laboratory-grown follicles could now be used to search for compounds with hitherto unknown effects on hair development. “Such technology would facilitate the discovery of drugs for promotion or inhibition of hair growth, which are problems affecting many people worldwide,” she says.
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