Scientists have discovered that stem cells found in hair follicles could be an alternative to embryonic stem cells:
“Epidermal neural crest stem cells are found in the bulge of hair follicles and have characteristics that combine some advantages of embryonic and adult stem cells, according to lead researcher, Maya Sieber-Blum, Ph.D., professor of cell biology, neurobiology & anatomy. Similar to embryonic stem cells, they have a high degree of plasticity, can be isolated at high levels of purity, and can be expanded in culture. Similar to other types of adult stem cells, they are readily accessible through a minimally invasive procedure and could lead to using a patient’s own hair as a source for therapy without the controversy or medical issues of embryonic stem cells.
‘We see the potential for cell replacement therapy in which patients can be their own donors, which would avoid ethical issues and reduce the possibility of tissue incompatibility,’ says Dr. Sieber-Blum.”
They have been used in experiments in mice with spinal cord injuries and, “‘[T]he cells survived and integrated into the spinal cord, remaining at the site of transplantation and not forming tumors,’ Dr. Sieber-Blum says.” Not forming tumors is always a plus. The formation of tumors is the main problem that researchers have when using ESCs, something they haven’t found with ASCs.
Imagine being able to treat yourself using your own hair! How convenient!