Identifying and mimicking the signals that regulate stem cell self‐renewal, differentiation and maintenance in a petri dish is crucial to faithfully recapitulate stem cell behaviour in vitro. In this issue, Chacón‐Martínez et al (2016) describe novel culture conditions that allow the long‐term expansion and maintenance of functional murine hair follicle stem cells. This exciting discovery provides a faithful platform to study hair follicle stem cells in vitro and potentially perform drug screening for skin and hair follicle disorders.
See also: CA Chacón‐Martínez et al
Stem cells (SCs) are responsible for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. They reside within specialized microenvironments, called niches. SC niches are composed of SCs themselves, neighbouring stromal, vascular and immune cells, as well as extracellular matrix, providing signals that regulate SCs' renewal, quiescence, proliferation and differentiation during homeostasis and repair (Blanpain & Fuchs, 2014). Therefore, in vitro models aimed at studying SC biology should incorporate niche cues to faithfully recapitulate the in vivo scenario. In this respect, Clevers and colleagues reported the successful generation of intestinal organoids by culturing intestinal SCs in matrigel together with the presence of a limited set of growth signals that are normally released by the intestinal SC niche (Sato et al, 2009). This approach has now been used to culture many tissues thought to be incapable to grow in vitro.
Hair follicle (HF) SCs, due to their high accessibility, their continual cycles of growth and degeneration and the different cell lineages they give rise to, represent an excellent model system to study all the essential characteristics of adult SC functions including quiescence, renewal, activation and differentiation (Blanpain & Fuchs, 2014). Pioneered by …
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